Clark City

Russell Chatham is back in northern California, fishing, thinking, writing, getting back to his roots. I don’t have any practical info,  yet, but he is reviving Clark City Press, one step at a time .

Back in the day, he was the one publisher willing to take Querencia– the- book. Without him, this blog would not exist. He also  introduced me to Libby. Without his benign conniving, I might not be around…

The first “new” CCP book is a history of the guy who brought simple impressionistic imitation into the popular fly fishing world. I repeat, simple. Art Flick’s Streamside Guide was first published in 1947, and I don’t know a single fly fisherman of my generation in the northeast who didn’t have a battered, well- used copy.

Yes, it is a fly fishing geek’s book. But the author, the late Roger Keckeissen,  is an original and eccentric himself, so if you have the slightest interest in the subject, you get a storyteller’s perspective– it is NOT a book of fly patterns, And finally, Russ puts it all into context with a day astream with Roger and Ernest Schweibert not long before their deaths.

I shouldn’t need to say that being a Clark City book, its paper quality and cover stock are better than many limited ed art books.

No, I don’t know how to get it or how much it costs, yet. Let me know if you find out. 

UPDATE:Lucas Machias just sent a link to Mountain Press, where you can buy it for $45.

McGuane at the Strand

As promised. These have generated a lot of email (personal, off blog, though I would encourage them here) enough that I might start looking for such interviews. I will put some thoughts in reaction below (above?),  probably tomorrow…

OK, in-stream commentary to friends edited only for a minimum of sense and coherence:

“Living in the west, natives, newcomers, “Stickers”. He conspicuously left out New Mexico, often an exception to easy rules. Given the ancient ethnes here– well, just OLD for Navajos and Apaches, who just beat the Spanish- the old populations here, which I think still are more than half of our population– any newcomer/ Anglo (includes, specifically, Italian here in Magdalena) has a chance at acceptance if he is what Stegner called a “sticker”. Oldest ranch here is the Italian one, Sis Olney’s (Pound ranch), and her great grandfather Joe Gianera came from the Swiss border about 18 miles from my gparents in 1859! John Davila considers his Davila ancestors parvenus becauise they married “UP into the Guttierez family” in 1820! Whereas the Guttierezes “… came up the river with Onate and took the place BACK!” after the Pueblo revolt. Gotta love that back… but it also means our church (big parish, San Miguel, Socorro) has a not always friendly rivalry going with Santa Fe as to who has the oldest church. Ours has the oldest wall, but had to incorporate it into a new one after the rebellion, because the Indians burned the old one…

“But despite (because of?), I surely am considered an old timer in this town, with pics, mostly hunting ones, on the bar wall, not because I am “famous” but because I live here and have hung out there for three incarnations of the bar and a couple of generations of humans. As I said to my (75 year old!) friend Lawrence Aragon last year when he lamented the dearth of old- timers: WE, los borrachos perdidos– the surviving ones anyway– are the old timers!

“So, Stegner’s “Stickers”. A good concept- though are we ones entirely by choice, or does economics play a part? The Stickers are often poor enough they might not do as well in richer placers, though McGuane and some others are exceptions. I wonder that any distance he feels from his neighbors might be because he is wealthy rather than an incomer– it puts up barriers. Certainly he has a good rep as a man who knows horses, all the way down  here.

(Jackson and Eli both were born in Santa Fe, and they can make a case for Eli being a 4th Gen Gringo SANTA FEAN, not just NMexican– pretty rare and cool…)

“With my crappy typing these days this feels like a dissertation, but a few more thoughts. Stegner fellowships at Stanford: did he like ANYBODY? McGuane, Robert Stone, Kesey, Shetzline– all were told they were lazy, beatniks, hippies, drug addicts- being selected seems to have meant success of sorts, but not from him. Back in MT it was as bad– Bud Guthrie AFAIK disliked without exception every incomer, and once told someone I know that anyone who moved there and bought a horse or rodeo’d was a poseur and a phony and he didn’t have to read them. Harsh, and ridiculous…

“McGuane’s lament for a more playful and less minimalist fiction rang true to me- his old stuff had more sheer FUN in it, prosodically anyway. I blame the influence– baneful influence, however he is regarded, of Raymond Carver. Luckily the South has somewhat escaped this– read Barry Hannah, much mentioned, and Brad Watson , two good examples. (Both Tom and Brad have written affectionate memories of THAT wild man).  And then there are crazy Catholic memoirists and poets like Mary Karr..

“Tom gave a shout- out to not just Helen but Helen’s friend Olivia Laing and her great book on drunkenness in writers, The Trip to Echo Spring. What can I say- that it is an ENJOYABLE book on drunkenness, celebrating the writers if not their excesses; that it is utterly free of cant or twelve step religion; that it is  a road book, by a naturalist, about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Carver, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, and John Cheever, that got me reading at least one (Cheever) again? That I once got an email from her in New Hampshire with an attached photo of my Good Guns Again, Blogger ” Doctor Hypercube’s” Arrieta, and the remains of bacon and eggs on the table?  Read her!

“Last: I enjoy his short stories but if he is really working on a novel about his family I am excited, hope it is BIG, and also hope it will go back to the “Irish Riviera”, South Shore of Boston all the way around to Providence, where his roots (always acknowledged) are. Of course he has told me to do the same, just from bits in my pigeon book…

“I wish he would write more about bird dogs and guns and horses, at least as much as fish. (did you see him call to Nick Lyons in the audience?)”


Covers for four of my reprints, all good so far… the last, the new Eagle Dreams with Cat Urbigkit’s cover of my late friend Aralbai, and intro, the observations of a Wyoming cowgirl and stockwoman (and writer) fifteen years or so after me, has been out only a couple of weeks.

Now if I could just get them to give me the images for my Amazon page.

Helen Rockstar!

Randy Davis wrote me today to tell me about a signing for Tom McGuane’s new book– I will delay getting it until I can get an inscribed one in Denver. He was at the Strand with Tom Brokaw.

“My oldest son went to see/hear the McGuane – Brokaw show at  Strand  Books in Manhattan.  Late in the session there was the usual question about what are you reading now, McGuane answered  and I’m paraphrasing, a lovely book that I thought had no commercial prospects, but has proven otherwise: H for Hawk.”

Otherwise indeed! Two big time British literary awards for a personal memoir with falconry is unusual. But I am not sure anyone I ever knew has had as meteoric a rise as Pluvialis in the US…

Partisan? You bet! But consider: this past week she had TWO NYT rave reviews , one Wall Street Journal, one Atlantic, one “Daily Beast”, a long article about her with a photo in the New Yorker, and an NPR interview on Wednesday in which she quoted me– on my birthday! A fine present for my slightly scary 65th…

So in her honor, from her blog Fretmarks, a 2006 description of a Gos in the riparian forest on the Syrdarya in Uzbekistan. You may want to go out and get H is for Hawk when you finish.

“Just near here, I looked up and thought I saw a man standing in a tree.
That’s what my brain told me, momentarily. A man in a long overcoat
leaning slightly to one side.

“And then I saw it wasn’t a man, but a goshawk.

“Moments like this are very illuminating. I’d never thought before, much,
about the actual phenomenology of human-hawk resemblance, the one that
must have brought forth all those mythological hawk-human bonds I’ve
studied for so long.

“I looked at a hawk in a tree, but I saw a man. How curious.

“This goshawk must have been eighty feet away, so dark against the bright
morning sun, so I couldn’t see whether he was facing me or the river.
His short head and snaky neck craned: he was looking at me.

“I raised my binoculars to my eyes as slowly as I could, half-closing my
eyes so my lashes fringed the glare. There. There he was. The glare
wasn’t so bad. I could see his edges very clearly. The light was very
bright. But I could also faintly see the horizontal barring on his chest
feathers. This was an adult male goshawk, and he looked very different
from the ones at home. He reminded me of old photographs of goshawks
flown by falconers on the northwest frontier. Hell, he was
one of these goshawks. He had a dark, dark head with a flaring pale
eyebrow, and the bars on his chest were close-set and far from the hazy,
broken lines of European birds. Imagine tracing—with a ruler—each
horizontal line of a narrow-ruled notebook with a thick, dark-grey
felt-tip pen. That’s what his front looked like, through the glare. And
he was standing on a bare branch and making up his mind what I was,
exactly, and what he should do about it.

“Slowly, he unfolded his wings, as if putting on a coat, and then, rather
quietly and leisurely, he took to the air, one long leg and
loosely-clenched foot trailing as he went. I was astonished by how
long-winged he was, and how much he looked like a big — albeit
long-tailed — falcon. His shape was very different from the goshawks at
home. He was a migrant gos; he’d travelled down mountains and across the
plains to winter here.

“Happy Pluvialis! I wandered back to camp, had a snooze, compared bird
notes, smoked a cigarette and had a cup of coffee. Halimjan made soup
for lunch; there it was, bubbling in the cast-iron pot over the gas
flame and we were sitting around our red plastic table chewing on stale
bread waiting for the soup, and all our heads went up at once. A noise
like ripping, tearing hessian, like a European Jay, only with real
terror in it, was coming towards us right there
and we watched — and slow as syrup and fast as a blink all at once,
came the male gos trying his damnest to catch a magpie; they flashed
right through the trees in front of the table, and gos nearly had a foot
to the magpie before he saw us — five humans and a fire and a truck and
a Giant Red Table right below
him — ack! — wave off! wave off! — and the magpie dove downwards to the
fork of a branch, crouching like a man avoiding a blow, and the gos
spooled away through the trees. He looked like a coin falling through
water, flashing silver and grey. Some kind of metal. A very fierce one.
Potassium, Sodium, Goshawk.”

Congratulations Paula! (and reluctant self- promotion)

Friend of the blog Paula Young Lee, writer and hunter, traveler, sometime resident of Paris France, Paris Maine, and Wellesley Mass, has won the Gold Medal for travel book from the Society of American Travel Writers  for her book Deer Hunting in Paris. I bet it could as easily win one for hunting book, or food book, or even tangentially for a sort of Po- Mo criticism.

The judges said: “”Eudora Welty, who believes all good writing must have it, speaks of the sound of a voice. And what a voice here! Resonant with images and descriptions, detailed observation and reporting, it soars — from a coot recipe to church suppers. Paula Young Lee saw a lot of the latter because her father, who came to this country from Korea with her mother after the war, served as a Methodist minister in various small town churches in Maine. Growing up there instilled in her a love of hunting, a match for her interest in cooking.”

Paula has complimented me by agreeing to do an intro for the new, third edition of my book of essays On The Edge of the Wild. As she is the only one doing an intro that I have not met, I was a mix of eager and scared. Suffice it to say I need not have worried! With Vadim Gorbatov on the cover, with its third Goshawk portrait (in this one the Gos catches a Pied crow in the snow outside Vadim’s Moscow apartment building), it will be an attractive package.


I have recently been persuaded that if I am going to write books I must sell them, and I haven’t been;  people of my age and background have a horror of calling explicit attention to themselves; somebody else should do it. But there is no budget for promoting books that are not expected to have a shot at the NYT Best Seller List.

I am not sure if I even want to show you the figures for my “book of books”, the so- called Sportsman’s Library; enough for now to say its sale numbers are a LOT lower than the number of hits I get every day on this blog. I assume nobody but old friends knows exactly what I write, even if they read the blog.  How would they?  Apparently, I have to add my new editions to my Amazon page!

I had decided already that the five backlist titles would be graced with new covers by artists I knew and liked (well, and one with a photo by me), and intros by people younger, smarter, and more famous than I, not to mention generous…

 So far so good, and much more to come! Expect backstories, excerpts, tales about artists and publishers good and bad; even guest appearances, to convince you not only to buy all my books for yourselves and for birthdays, but to buy ten of each for Christmas. You are warned!

Q Cover Redux

In the home stretch  on the new  edition of  Q.  For the cover, I still favor some variety of this photo (forgive quality of my amateur efforts; I am sure a designer could do wonders with my template). The publisher favors the old cover. Any last thoughts? Here are the mockups I attempted.

The old one is wonderful but I believe in new covers for new editions. And I should add it is a lot better than this image below– I have been shifting files and couldn’t find a version so got it off Amazon!)

Passenger Pigeons Again…

Another little sample from my evolving proposal:
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After the Ice
… I will draw on contemporary scholarship from Pielou to Paul Martin to
paint a picture of the late glacial world – one with little place
for the passenger pigeon
as a major ecological actor. One keystone
will be Australian ecologist Tim Flannery’s (The Eternal
) hypothesis that the North American continent, by virtue
of its shape, weather, and geology, has never had a stable
environment, especially since the last glaciation.

Gun Books for Boys, Parents, and Girls…

Silvio Calabi and his team released the amazing Gun Book for Boys a couple of weeks ago. I opened it with interest; Silvio has been a fine editor and writer (last year’s Hemingway’s Guns, reviewed here, is a favorite) and good correspondent for years, and he was the somewhat unlikely advisor who recommended I take up yoga after I got PD– not what you might expect of a Newton- raised coastal Maine- based shooting writer who loves double shotguns as much as I do.

I expected good but was nevertheless amazed at its breadth, depth, and good sense. It was the best primer I have ever seen. I wrote to him : “The Gun Book for Boys is the best gun book for beginners ever, whether for boys, girls, or adults. Even those who think with reason that they already know enough about guns will benefit from its organization and idiosyncratic detail not to mention its unfailing good sense– I have written 1 1/2 gun books myself and countless articles and still enjoyed leafing through the pages… Libby swears it puts what she knows in context, historical and other, and she has been exposed to guns all her life. You may quote me!’

I then added; “…between us; strategically, was “boys” the best decision re title? As a word only,and I am utterly anti- pc, I would have preferred ‘kids’…”

He must have laughed, because “strategically” he was ‘way ahead of me. He responded: “Your comment about ‘Boys’ Book is spot- on; however this A) causes mild controversy, which is good, and B) opens the door for… The Gun Book for Girls.. which will follow The Gun Book For Parents.” D’oh!

I now have my Parents which is even more practically useful, if perhaps not as full of historical nuggets, and can’t wait to see Girls; the books have no repetetive filler at all, but are original from the ground up. Ten stars.

I should add that grandson Eli already has his copy (though more of an age to taste it than digest) as do my Graham nephews and their parents, and I would not be at all surprised to see remarks from Peculiar or sister Karen incoming…