April 20, 2017
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.
April 20, 2017
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.
April 3, 2017
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.
March 23, 2017
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.
March 6, 2017
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.
February 12, 2017
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.
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.
January 31, 2017
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!
January 20, 2017
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?
January 13, 2017
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.