HOME RANGE: Notes on Literature, Nature, Working Dogs, History, Other Obsessions and Sundry Annoyances by Henry Chappell

Words I Wish I'd Written

April 20, 2017

Tags: WIWIW, Moby Dick, Herman Melville


I'm unqualified to call Moby Dick the greatest American novel, as many critics and scholars have, but I can call it the greatest American novel I've read. I'll expand that judgement to include novels written in English, that I've read." Comparisons to the works of Dickens, George Eliot, Forster, et al seem meaningless, even ridiculous, so I'll just assert that Melville is unmatched in his ability to conjure moods of bliss and foreboding and images both beautiful and terrifying. Only Joseph Conrad, a Polish mariner who wrote in English, comes close. Is there something about novelists obsessed with the sea?

Let me open my marked-up copy at random and flip a few pages to find an underlined passage. Here's the crew of the Pequod working through the night, cooking down a sperm whale:

"Their tawny features, now all begrimed with smoke and sweat, their matted beards, and the contrasting barbaric brilliancy of their teeth, all these were strangely revealed in the capricious emblazonings of the works. As they narrated to each other their unholy adventures, their tales of terror told in words of mirth; as their uncivilized laughter forked upwards out of them, like flames from the furnace; as to and fro, in their front, the harpooners wildly gesticulated with their huge pronged forks and dippers; as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night, and scornfully champed the white bone in her mouth, and viciously spat round her on all sides; then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart to her monomaniac commander's soul."



Melville knew his whalers: unrepentant butchers and among the bravest, toughest S.O.B.s who ever lived.


A Mixed Report

April 20, 2017

Tags: garden, 2017, first report





Looking good. Blackeyed peas and beans are another matter. Some critter or other has pretty well destroyed seven beds of young vines. Has to be a climber because I use chicken wire all the way around the inside of my wrought iron fence. The clipped stems look like roof rat damage, and there was a three-foot rat snake in the garden the other day and I doubt it was there for the scenery. I hate roof rats. They're all over the suburbs. Cate, my cur-dog, is a fine rat catcher but she'd tear my garden to shreds hunting and chasing. I'll try traps. Wish I could recruit some more snakes. The neighborhood hawks and owls really ought to get busy. Onions and peppers looking fine.

Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut excerpt in The Land Report

April 3, 2017

Tags: Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut, excerpt, The Land Report



The latest issue of The Land Report features a long excerpt from Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut: The San Antonio Viejo Ranch of Texas. Of course Wyman Meinzer's photos make the thing read a hell of a lot better. My thanks and compliments to editor Eric O'Keefe and his staff at TLR.

A Few Words in Favor of Literary Conservatives

March 23, 2017

Tags: Conservative novelists, Financial Times, Janan Ganesh

A few weeks back, in Financial Times, Janan Ganesh put in a few good words for literary conservatives – an endangered species nowadays. Being a man of conservative sensibility myself, and a novelist, I read the column with surprise and satisfaction. Here’s Ganesh:

“A dark view of humans, a certain resignation to the imperfectibility of things, is what marks literature out from the idealistic arts. We expect actors and musicians to be left-liberal. When Meryl Streep uses an awards podium as a bully pulpit, and Lily Allen tweets against Brexit, they are doing what entertainers always do. Visual artists, too, at least in the 20th century and since, subvert political authority, organised religion and commerce."

Read the whole thing.

Update: The Financial Times website won't let me simply copy and paste a link to the column, and I'm too lazy to figure out a work-around. But you can google "literary conservatives" and "financial times" and get to the column.

Come one, come all!

March 6, 2017

Tags: Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut, Cleburne Public Library

If you'll be in the Cleburne, Texas area this coming Thursday, I'd love to see you. I've got your talk, your books, and, most importantly, a bunch of Wyman Meinzer's photos to show you. I'll always have a soft spot for small town libraries. My thanks to Tina Dunham, Amy Graham, and the other great folks with the Cleburne Public Library.

King Ranch!

February 12, 2017

Tags: King Ranch, Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut, Wyman Meinzer, Saddle Shop

Wyman and I enjoyed two great events yesterday at the King Ranch Saddle Shop in Kingsville, Texas. Signed a pile of books and made new friends and caught up with old friends. It's always good to get back to the legendary ranch. The Saddle Shop folks put on a wonderful signing. We couldn't have asked for better hosts. The long, shared history of the King Ranch and San Antonio Viejo Ranch made this trip special.

I have an Idea ...

February 6, 2017

This could take a while. I don't have time just yet. It's driving me crazy. I'll have to convince some reckless magazine editor. That's all for now.

New Review of Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut

January 31, 2017

Tags: Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut, Lone Star Horse Report, Review

Dan Talbot is very kind to Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut in the February 2017 issue of Lone Star Horse Report:

"Twelve years after collaborating on a book about the famous Four Sixes Ranch, Texas State Photographer Wyman Meinzer of Benjamin and award-winning novelist/journalist Henry Chappell of Parker have published a monumental portrait of one of the state's largest but least known cattle empires.

"Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut is a meticulously researched and engagingly written history of the 300-year-old San Antonio Viejo Ranch of South Texas and the East Family, who has owned and operated it for more than a century."


Thank you Dan Talbot!

Short Hunt; Sanity Restored

January 20, 2017

Tags: Cate, Squirrel Hunting

A deadline weighed on me yesterday, so I had time for only a quick afternoon hunt. Cate treed four, but her boss found only three. The fourth was in a huge, old den tree so I don't feel too bad about not finding it.

Why are short, successful hunts worked in between obligations so satisfying?

Texas Public Radio Interview

January 13, 2017

Tags: Dave Davies, Texas Public Radio, Silent We Stood

Here's a little Texas Public Radio Interview I did a couple days ago with Dave Davies. I'm amazed and pleased to no end that Silent We Stood still gets a little media attention.

Selected Work

Novels
"I regard Silent We Stood as being among the finest Civil War novels I have ever read"
  • David Madden, Civil War Book Review
  • "Blood Kin is historical fiction at its best."
  • Bruce Winders, Historian and Curator, The Alamo
  • "The finest book on buffalo hunting and the resulting conflict with the Comanches that I have ever read."
  • Doris R. Meredith, Roundup
  • Non-fiction Books
    "Sharp and colorful also describe the economical prose of sports and wildlife writer Henry Chappell"
  • Elaine Wolff, San Antonio Current
  • Magazine Work
    Articles and Reviews
    Feature Articles
    Columns and Feature Articles