"My first copy of Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory cost me $1.65, which will tell you how long ago I first read it, roughly 40 years. And I still own it, which should tell you something else." – Scott Turow, NPR Website
The Forgotten Peninsula: a Naturalist in Baja California, by Joseph Wood Krutch (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1986; first published in 1961)
Return to the Baja peninsula Joseph Wood Krutch found during his travels in the late 1950s. Although much has changed, Krutch’s “classic portrait” of Baja’s natural and human history continues to help readers see and celebrate this unique and beautiful landscape.
Nearly everywhere mountainous in the center and with the highest peaks in the northern San Pedro Martir range, Baja drops off toward the sea on both sides, ending sometimes in cliffs or submerged mountains, sometimes in flat, arid plains or extensive deserts encrusted with salt. The impression which the layman gets is that of a mountain range drowned by encroaching seas, but the geologists say that it is actually the other way around – which is to say that the main features of the peninsula are the result of a great uplift which took place about the time of the making of the Rocky Mountains. The roughly ten degrees of latitude through which the peninsula extends, together with the great variations of altitude and the variations of rainfall from little to none at all, produce a great variety of tropical, tropical arid, and sub-tropical vegetation, very striking even from an airplane as it crosses the lush agricultural land of the irrigated region near the U.S. border, brushes the bare granite peaks and sparsely pine-scattered slopes of the highest northern mountains, and then crosses large areas of typical lower Sonoran Desert and barren salt flats, relieved by a few oases of palm and banana trees. – from The Forgotten Peninsula: a Naturalist in Baja California, by Joseph Wood Krutch
"Mr. Varelmann told me that the Pranksters had spent the summer next to
his hotel, parking their bus beside a huge rock. Mr. Varelmann is now
retired to Florida. He said he couldn’t remember Kesey very well, but
he remembered the Pranksters and their kids, and the bus." --from "In Mexico, on the Lame with Ken Kesey," by Lawrence Downes, New York Times
A Visit to Don Otavio: a Traveller’s Tale from Mexico, by Sybille Bedford (New York : Counterpoint Press, reprint 2003; first edition 1953)
In A Visit to Don Otavio: a Traveller’s Tale from Mexico, Sybille Bedford describes her 1952 “impromptu” journey to Mexico with her friend, Esther Murphy Arthur, “arriving without itinerary, without preconceptions, and with their senses open.” Described by Bruce Chatwin as “a book of marvels,” Sybille Bedford transports readers to time and place, describing the joys and challenges of travel in this “extravagantly beautiful and brutal country.” Although much has changed since Bedford set foot in Mexico City; Cuernavaca; Guadalajara; Mazatlán; Querétaro; Puebla; Lake Chapala, the location of Don Otavio’s “hacienda”; and other places; A Visit to Don Otavio remains a fine companion when traveling to Mexico, whether in person or vicariously.
We were then each working on a book and had reached midstream, that prosperous passage between the struggle of the beginning and the obsession of the end, when the book moves with its own existence and has not yet absorbed one's own, and the daily quarrying is an anchor rather than a burden, a secret discipline at once attaching and detaching, muffling and heightening the rest of living. Within these shafts we strayed at will between two dreams, the life of our books, and the life of the Hacienda.
Every day we wore linen clothes, every day we bathed. We had never been so free. Letters were lost or late, everything else in abeyance among those birds and fruit and flowers—anxiety, money, love; the vicissitudes of friends, the miseries of politics, ourselves perhaps.” – from A Visit to Don Otavio: A Traveller's Tale from Mexico, by Sybille Beford
“…halfway through, in one thin chapter in the very center, Mr. Stegner offers this sunny interlude in Mexico, where Oliver Ward, an engineer, has been sent to inspect an old silver mine. Susan Ward makes the most of the trip — and treasures its memory the rest of her life. ‘Mexico,’ she tells her grandson decades later, 'was my Paris and my Rome.’” – from “Following Fact and Fiction Into a Colonial City,” by Mary Duenwald, New York Times
“…I have rediscovered some stories of the family past in the landscapes of Texas and Mexico, in the timeless language of stone, river, and trees.” – from Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation, by John Phillip Santos
Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation, by John Phillip Santos (New York ; Penguin, 2000)
“I wanted to tell a single story, bound together like an old amate codex, to carry the saga of Mexico into the story of Texas, and into the story of our family, walking like a tribe of pilgrims out of a tattered past of conquests, upheavals, revolutions, and migrations.” – from Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation, by John Phillip Santos
In Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation, John Phillip Santos explores his family’s roots, embarking on an extraordinary journey into south Texas and Mexico. What began as curiosity about his grandfather’s mysterious death in 1939 expanded into a contemplation of family, especially the older generation, and their ties to places and one another. By following the threads of his own family, Santos connects with the broader history he shares with other Mexican-Americans, while also inspiring the rest of us to recall our own ancestral ties and family stories of migration.
It’s helpful to have a map nearby while reading Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation -- to visualize the roads connecting Mexico and south Texas, to follow Santos’ route into his family’s homeland of Coahuila, to retrace with him Cortes’ path of conquest through Mexico, and to imagine anthropological sites dating back to the Incas. Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation is a necessary book; it helps explain so much of a history we should already understand, especially during the ongoing debate about our borderlands.
“With Uncle Frank’s death, our family had lost the steady beacon that had guided us out of Mexico and helped create the life we had known in San Antonio. The family was different now, bigger, more spread out. Mexico, and San Antonio, too had undergone enormous changes. But it was a time when poor people all over the world continued to leave their homes and countries because of joblessness, famine, and wars. Our family’s story in this century, of a migration of only two hundred and fifty miles from the mountains of Coahuila to the river plain surrounding San Antonio, was part of a much larger story, encompassing untold millions of lives, all of us setting out once and for all from our homelands – all of us exilios – perhaps never to return.” – from Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation, by John Phillip Santos
"Today, in New York City, I live in a world las Viejitas never visited, very far from the land they knew well. I have been to places they never imagined, like England, Europe, Turkey, Peru, and the Sudan. Yet, wherever I go, there is a ribbon of primordial Mexican night, the color of obsidian, snaking in a dream through the skies high over my head.” – from Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation, by John Phillip Santos
“Fuentes himself has a foothold in more than one world. He was born in Panama in 1928 to a Mexican diplomat who would take his family to Chile, the United States and Europe. He spent his summers in Veracruz with his grandmother, and 'the wealth of the stories they told me there lasted a lifetime.'" – “His 2020 Vision,” by Anne-Marie O’Connor, Los Angeles Times
“Little is know about the following people: David Toscana, Ignacio Padilla, Mario Bellatín and Mónica Lavín. But to followers of Mexico’s literary scene, their names serve as a guide to a growing movement led by young writers.” Monica Campbell writes about these “young authors look[ing] beyond El Boom,” the "boom" of Latin American literature during the 1960s, in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.
“The new fiction writers readily salute the powerful influence of El Boom, but are weary of a literary style that has long typecast Latin American literature.” – Monica Campbell, San Francisco Chronicle