- Deep Waters: Frank Waters Remembered in Letters and Commentary by Alan Louis Kishbaugh
In this beautiful book Kishbaugh recounts his friendship with New Mexico writer Frank Waters—a friendship that began through an initial meeting in Taos and then grew and strengthened over a period of almost thirty years, primarily through a series of letters between the two, ending only with Waters's death in 1995. In his introduction to the work, Kishbaugh sets up the background for the reader, explaining his own forays into various aspects of writing—magazine articles, some screenplays, an unpublished novel, for example—and noting that "throughout all of this uneven application, I have steadfastly continued to think of myself as, first and foremost, a literary man" (xv). And that, no doubt, explains the immediate connection between the author and his subject, Frank Waters, for they were both literary men. At the time they met, Kishbaugh was a young man serving as head of operations in the western United States for Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and Waters was an established author in his sixties. The student-mentor dynamic was surely at work here.
Kishbaugh has designed his book in chapters moving chronologically in three-year periods of time, starting in 1967. And in a format somewhat similar to Cormac McCarthy's in Blood Meridian, he begins each chapter with a quick overview of what it will cover. As the book unfolds and the correspondence between the two men grows, Kishbaugh also adds commentary following individual letters where additional information is needed for the reader to understand an event, a person, or an incident to which either correspondent is referring. That additional information not only adds [End Page 462] to the reader's understanding but enhances the reading experience with the author's own beautiful writing.
The correspondence between the two men is intellectually stimulating as they discuss Waters's various novels, which are set in both the American Southwest and Mexico. Waters shares his thoughts and love for the Pueblo people, his neighbors in Taos and the inspiration for one of his most famous works, The Man Who Killed the Deer. Readers will also find reference to other individuals frequently mentioned when the American Southwest is studied—Mabel Dodge Luhan, John Sinclair, John Manchester, and Dorothy Brett—all Frank Waters's friends who remain part of the mythos of the Taos area.
This book, detailing the correspondence between Kishbaugh and Waters plus the reflections on the in-person meetings the two men had, helps to cement the fact that Waters's place in western literature is a solid one. His sense of place and his rootedness to his New Mexico home come through loud and clear, both in his own voice and in the reflections made about him by Kishbaugh. After reading this book one will be eager to revisit one or more of Frank Waters's novels.