VOICES OF COUNTERCULTURE IN THE SOUTHWEST
Edited by Jack Loeffler and Meredith Davidson (MUSEUM OF NEW MEXICO PRESS, 2017)
The seismic disruption that disaffected baby boomers wrought upon America in the 1960s and ’70s rippled significantly across New Mexico. Hippie communes lined the Río Grande. Vietnam protests erupted at the University of New Mexico. Spanish land-grant activists demanded their say, as did women, blacks, and Native peoples. In Voices of Counterculture in the Southwest, those who rubbed shoulders with the likes of Ken Kesey, Edward Abbey, and Wavy Gravy weave compelling tales of their thoroughly Southwestern experiences and what it all meant.
That they tend to disagree on that final point is but one of the trippy effects of hearing from so many people—among them actor Peter Coyote, photographer Lisa Law, poet Levi Romero, and the late historian and artist Rina Swentzell. Crafted as a companion to an exhibit at the New Mexico History Museum (see “Commune to Community”), the book offers historical details, unglossed nostalgia, and tantalizing photographs.
The name-dropping alone is worth it. Ram Dass compiled his 1971 book Be Here Now at the Lama Foundation in Taos. Dennis Hopper held court in Mabel Dodge Luhan’s former Taos digs. Poets Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Gregory Corso flitted through. Aural historian Jack Loeffler draws on his fortuitously recorded interviews with many of them, notably environmental activists like Abbey, David Brower, and Dave Foreman. Images of Santa Fe’s old Paolo Soleri Amphitheater with Abbey, Pete Seeger, and Stewart Udall, on stage raising money for Navajo uranium miners, help nail a zeitgeist that mixed celebrity activists with starry-eyed flower children. In her foreword, curator Meredith Davidson argues that those days may not be the distant past. “Fifty years after the Summer of Love, the youth of today’s world are facing similar issues of racial prejudice, global violence, and environmental challenges. Blogs and websites explore tiny-house living and homesteading. It seems we are once again seeking a more wholesome approach to living and an awareness of something greater than ourselves.” —Kate Nelson
By Stanley Crawford (LEAF STORM PRESS, 2017)
A couple hundred pages into Village, the local UPS driver muses on his way home from work that San Marcos would always remain to him “a vast puzzle to which he had fitted together only a small number of the oddly shaped pieces.” If only that minor character could go home and read the novel, for author Stanley Crawford has done him the favor of assembling a droll, intimate portrait of a colorful northern New Mexico community, piece by peculiar piece.
The action describes the events of a single day in the life of the village as it tick-tocks toward the climactic evening event—wait for it—a water-rights presentation by a bureaucrat up from Santa Fe. But a bemused Crawford, a longtime resident of the village of Dixon (and occasional New Mexico Magazine contributor), animates the quotidian proceedings by describing in forensic detail how various citizens interact and worry. As they go about their business, the shopkeepers, the mayordomo of the acequia, the undertaker, and the post office clerk all privately stew over the petty jealousies, grudges, and personal misdemeanors that provide the subtext of daily life. Nobility is in short supply in this satire of the hyper-local, only–in–New Mexico humanity on display here. But Crawford’s precise anthropological observations betray a fascination and fondness for the lifeways of the community. The village may be absurd and parochial to the nth, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. —Dave Herndon
SONG OF THE LION
A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel
By Anne Hillerman (HARPER, 2017)
Carrying on the storytelling tradition of her late father, Tony, Anne Hillerman successfully blends suspense with just enough humor as she sends his main characters on another adventure across Navajo and Hopi country. In this, her third installment in the legacy mystery series, a proposed development at the Grand Canyon puts half the action in Arizona, while a car bomb at Shiprock High School holds important clues to a tangled web of ulterior motives. Retired lawman Joe Leaphorn, one of Tony Hillerman’s most indelible characters, manages a bit part after surviving a gunshot to the head in the last book, and his recovery points to a bigger role to come. Much of the charm lies in watching the earnest and endlessly polite police work of Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito, along with the playfulness and respect of their deepening marriage. These quick reads reliably deliver an insider’s glimpse into real-life parts of the vast Diné region, with tradition-bound seniors and young people alike grappling with their places in a modern world. —Kate Nelson
WORLD WAR I NEW MEXICO
By Daniel R. Cillis (THE HISTORY PRESS, 2017)
New Mexico became a state just five years before America’s entry into World War I, but New Mexicans quickly responded to the call and were deeply engaged in the war effort. World War I New Mexico delves into what role the state played—and what effects it delivered. Cillis outlines a clear and understandable account of the war, and his thoughtful survey gives rich historical context to the weight of the conflict on Southwestern states. The book’s greatest value, however, lies in the more than 80 carefully researched accounts of individual New Mexicans who served on the home front and the Western Front, in Siberia, and as far as the Yangtze River in China. Carefully pieced together from letters and records, these profiles provide living human narratives of doughboys from every county in the state. Their thoughts, hopes, fears, and day-to-day struggles give us a homegrown window into the chaotic swirl of the first modern war. —Andrew Roush