BOOK SUGGESTIONS

Recently Tom McIntyre asked several of his friends to recommend books for a young woman who had not encountered them in college. My list follows.

I once said that in my school the curriculum would be Classics, poetry, history, evolutionary biology, and how to run a chainsaw…

Politics and philosophy. Sorta…..

John Gray: Straw Dogs, John is a calm erudite calm nihilist and perhaps the most original mind in England today. He wrote a book on atheism in which he held that faith is dumb, then proved atheism is at least as…

Michael Oakeshott: Rationalism in Politics (he’s agin it)
An immense detailed scholarly book that in the end shows that the best society was in the Englsh counryside before WWI, and that all delberate change however inevitable is bad, by an old English small l ljbertarian who lives in such a village and likes to swim naked.

Prince Peter Kropotkin: Mutual Aid . Mutual aid! As far as I am concerned all political wisdom resides in these books.

Art etc: Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae. Her later ones are pretty good but she gets caught up in her schtick

A couple of uncharitable (but funny) Catholic novelists; my favories among their books

Evelyn Waugh:
A Handful of Dust
Scoop (The Daily Beast!)
Black Mischeif
Redemption? Brideshead Revisited

Muriel Spark:
A far Cry from Kensington
Loitering with Intent — woops, an autobiography but still , “I went on my way rejoicing.”

A charitable Catholic (redneck academic): Mary Karr. The Liars Club, Lit: the one about writing biographies. I have it lent out to a cowboy right now — I can’t remember the name .It covers everyody from Nabokov to Frank Conroy ‘s Stop Time.

A little natural history — Ed Wilson’s Biophilia; Berndt Heinrich’s Mind of the Raven.

Ted Hughes: The Collected Poetry — accessible, memorable, mostly nature poetry that stays in your head.

Possibly, the LOA edition(s ) of Nabokov. One contains Lolita (the ultimate motel road novel), Pale Fire and Pnin . Another contains Speak Memor and the good butterfly stuff ((see my next book).

Imperialism: nothing better than Heaven’s Command, Jan (James) Morris’ trilogy about the British Empire, also containing Pax Britannica, and Farewell the Trumpets

Two great books of American History: Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne and Blood and Thunder by Hampden Sides. The first is more or less about the Comanche Empire, which actually was one. The second is about Kit Carson. Both are full of blood and guts and heroism; neither have easy villains.

Can you bring yourself to read someone as unpopular as Kipling? Every sentence in every one of his books, especially when he gets on his feet and gets going (which happens remarkably early –HENRY JAMES was calling him a genius at 20 I think) contains its opposite, as only happens in the greatest art. The Jungle Books are kids’ books. Sure. I read them when I was four and have read them every year since. They contain the world. Kim is the best adventure story ever told with its utterly ambiguous boy hero, and Tom; Libby sat on the great guns Zim Zimmah!

If you enjoy these kind of things — I do very much — you will doubtless enjoy Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time. But there are twelve frickin’ volumes and I doubt there’s enough time in a lifetime to read them twice. So why not read instead his autobiography? The four titles tell it all: Messengers of Day; Infants of the Spring; The Strangers are all Gone; and Faces in My Time (“I have seen better faces in my time/Than stands on any shoulder that I see/Before me at this instance”– Lear). They are short enough that you can read all of them every year. And they contain everybody that was anybody in British literature for fifty years.

Captain Rick Rozen

Rick in the 70’s

I just heard that my old (3rd oldest I think) friend Rick Rozen had died, of cancer and bouts of flesh-eating bacteria. Best I can tell he was 70 or 71.

I first met Rick when I was 13 and he was 15, freshmen at a Catholic prep school. He had already attained his full growth at 15 and he was large enough to be eccentric. He smoked Lark cigarettes, wore a sport jacket with large green elephants on it, and spoke an unlikely patois of surfer and hipster. He was cool, but formidable; even the jocks were afraid of him, and somehow he took a liking to a little brainy kid and protected him.

We both had relatives with houses on the “Irish Riviera” south of Boston. Rick had picked up a taste for sport, especially fly fishing, and an old L. C. Smith he had traded for a roll of carpet, whenr he had spent a hippie stint in Vermont after he had dropped out of college. He, Mike Conca, and I and a few others all moved to Marshfield, MA, where we spent the early 70’s as an unlikely band of hunter-gatherers. I will never eat so well again .

Rick took it most seriously. He eventually earned enough to buy a Novi tuna boat named the Half Fast. There were still bluefin tuna around in excess 1000 pounds. He eventually learned how to catch them. I remember one that brought in a six figure price at the dock — in 70’s dollars that was a lot of money..

With the proceeds from the tuna, he eventually bought a camp in Golfito, Costa Rica, though he maintained his fishing business in Massachusetts. His last years were good; pictures of him show him surrounded by beer and beautiful Costa Rican girls. My photos have all been eaten by the computer, but I’ll try to get more.

He is survived by his wife, Rita, and a couple of brothers. His most interesting brother, Bill, preceded him in death, and is worthy of a column of his own.

Rest in Peace, Captain Rick. You earned your title.

God, I am sick of writing obituaries

Some Birds Past

I got a 7/8 Gyrfalcon, 1/8 Saker male falcon from a commercial breeder in Wyoming. He became He became, as most birds raised this way do, a quiet social imprint who loved dogs, and flying on the Henderson ranch.

He was doing fine when a rich young ornithologist of my acquaintance insisted on “starting” him for me. He didn’t need starting– he was already chasing things. I suspect that the kid just wanted to chase things with a Gyrfalcon; the bird was in a self indulgent slow development stage as most Gyrs are. He fed the bird a poxy bridge pigeon to save money. Any fool knows that poxy pigeons kill a bird as sure as cyanide. The kid who killed the bird never even told me because he was afraid I would be “sad”, especially when the breeder told me he would never give me another bird because I was “irresponsible”. There really is no excuse for not telling me this had happened. I’m of the “No excuse, sir” school, so I never told the breeder what actually happened.

This is Tuuli, a male Gyr Prairie, one of the best, if no the best, birds I ever had. He used to allow the dogs to sniff under his tail, and beat them up if they didn’t find quarry fast enough. I have no idea why this picture appeared.

This is Chicken. She was Barb – Taita. She was very fast but could not soar, which is why she got killed. She carried songbirds away. I had few ducks on the plateau. The same year I lost the Gyr, my friend Bodie lost his Peregrine and asked if he could borrow Chicken. She killed nine ducks larger than herself on the golf course. One morning she missed her strike and rather than soar around the pond, she landed on a power pole and promptly fell to the ground, burnt to calcified ash. It happens. About four seconds later, Bodie, who is a military Scot and a Zen swordsman, called me on his cell phone and said “Stephen, I just killed your falcon.” I was sad, but guess which one of those people I’d give another bird to?

Once and Future Hawk

I had a couple of these.

One of them was afraid of hats. In New Mexico. I fed her off one all summer and she still leaped off the perch every time she saw it.

I’m getting one of these. He caught 70 small birds last month (legal, House sparrows).

…And one of these

I like these too — a lot — but they fly a bit big for me these days, especially on Lee’s ranch, with its 12 mile vistas and Golden eagles.


Another View of Marccus

This tribute to my late brother Mark was written by my younger sister Anita, who runs an autoimmune disease clinic with a doctor partner (who is also a snake fanatic — but that’s a matter for another time.) While it is frankly sentimental, it is a worthy addition to my bitter portrait — I was furious at him for having thrown his life away, and that is not always fair. Here’s Anita:

Thank you to everyone gathering at Off the Wall today from Mark H Bodio‘s family stateside. We will all be there in spirit and can envision his freed spirit floating over the beautiful turquoise waters and trade winds of Cane Bay. We will miss his smile, quick wit and random facts he so freely shared. He was a kind and gentle soul with my father’s Italian temper. We are so sad but rejoice that he can now be reunited with his beloved DK who was torn from him at such a young age. I bet he thinks flying’s pretty cool (and knows the exact velocity and distance he can go at any given moment) When watching the sunset and moon rise, he always reminded us that the moon was 238,900 miles away. He must love being able to test that and travel at the speed of light. Love you so much, Mark. Miss being able to call and chat with you.
A HUGE shout out to Keith Nelson who has been my constant support and feet on the ground. He’s not on FB but can someone who is give him a huge hug from us!?! Also to Diana at Off the Wall who accepted my crazy call the day he died and got my number to all the right people. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude.
My husband, daughter and I will be on the island in June. We would love to meet his friends, hear your stories and thank you for being his family in our absence. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You were his lifeline.

The Houndsman

If anyone could understand why I missed his memorial yesterday, it would be Dutch Salmon. He led me into many places, most of them good, but he also was a pioneer in dealing as gracefully as anyone can with Parkinson’s disease and its sometimes impossible symptoms and restrictions.

I first encountered Dutch Salmon in an unpublished manuscript called “Home With the Hounds” in Gray’s Sporting Journal. It opened up a whole new world for me, one of passionate hunters following ancient breeds over wild landscapes, chasing hares and other quarry. “Falconry on the ground!” We were never out of touch, even after that. I followed his trail from New York to New Mexico, where I too came to live. I eventually followed the hounds themselves all the way to Asia. Six of my eleven books would not exist without him, and the range of them would probably be very different. When I got the shocking news of his death last week, from complications of melanoma, I realized with a shock that this quiet man has possibly been the single biggest influence on my life: He brought me to my querencia and showed me how to live well in it. Dutch was always a writer, a varied and skillful one at that. He wrote books on hounds, and novels, and a book about the Gila and one on catfish that I included in my Sportsman’s Library, a slightly arbitrary collection of the best sporting books in the world. But I think his heart was always with the dogs. He was not just a houndsman but THE Houndsman, an almost archtypical character who knew and defended this most ancient way of hunting, one that had existed since we became human, and is now endangered by our modern way of life. I don’t know how many hounds owe their very existence to Dutch , but I’ll bet their number is in the hundreds.

Good-bye, Dutch. Here’s a strong drink to you, a shot of tequila “hot” , “down ‘ze rathole” as in the Mexican dog stories you used to tell so well. I know you are grieved for by your lovely wife Cherie and your fine son Bud, and the houndsmen of New Mexico and the West; all the others that love you will miss you more than you’ll ever know.

Charlin

I achieved an unusual coup the other day; I paid off my gun dealer’s bill with an expensive gun, and got a better one for less money.

It is a Charlin, not a Darne. While they look superficially alike, the Charlin’s breech rolls on ball bearings and can be moved by two arthritic fingers, while the Darne’s powerful lockup needs a vigorous push. The difference is remarkable — peoples’ faces light up when they open and close the Charlin.


I included the detail on the barrel flats in hope that one of my readers might tell me more about this gun. It is said that rare books a bookdealer only gets to see once or twice in his life; the rest are uncommon. By this standard the Charlin is a rare gun. I’ve seen two and bought both. One was a plain grade 16 which my gunsmith accidentally sold. I know of one other that went up for sale at auction; the other was at James Julia in 2015. I don’t know if it made its reserve, but they were asking $50 – $80,000 for it! Of course it was covered with gold figures in Japanese style though it was made for an Indian maharajah, but it’s wood is not as nice as mine.

It is in nearly perfect condition except for the recoil pad which needs replacing. It is of extremely English style and dimensions: 26″, chambers 2 1/2″, 14 3/4″ LOP, 6 1/4 pounds, little drop; the barrels are charcoal gray rather than black. In the whimsical grading scheme which I’m told Charlin invented, it has four swallows indicating its rank. I haven’t the slightest idea what this means. Have at it!