Kathryn Ferguson: The Haunting of the Mexican Border, A Woman’s Journey

Half the time, self is reading this book with deep anxiety. Why? Because the author is a woman and self’s background is conditioning her to expect an ‘incident.’ But, so far, Ferguson’s encounters have been refreshingly free of ‘Bad Hombres.’

p. 54:

One of my first faux pax in the Sierra is to tell Hiram, a Norogachic vaquero and friend of Santiago’s, that I like his horse while he is saddling up a mule. Politely but firmly he explains the difference. Mules and horses look alike. Except mules have long ears. I have since become a great observer of ears. I don’t want to call someone a jackass who isn’t.

Stay tuned.

Self-Regard

Since finishing The Hobbit, a week and a half ago, self has read two books by women: The Haunting of the Mexican Border, by Kathryn Ferguson (University of New Mexico Press, 2015) and Trick Mirror, by Jia Tolentino (Random House, 2019).

Ferguson undertakes an exploration of the southern border, with a vague hope of making a documentary: she doesn’t have funds, doesn’t know anyone, but stumbles around, talking to whoever will talk to her. And she IS lucky: nothing bad happens to her.

Jia Tolentino is lucky. The daughter of Philippine parents who became Canadian citizens, she is smart as a whip, in-your-face, and funny. Her style is to sit back and analyze everything that happens to her, and everything she does.

In Essay # 2 of Trick Mirror, she recounts her time as a reality TV contestant (She was 16. Never one to miss an advantage, she packs a lot of pocket-sized mini-skirts. Points!). After analyzing her fellow castmates (one was “a sweet guy,” another was “the all-American girl,” still another was “the wacko,” etc.), she asks her castmates what they thought she’d been cast as:

Though I’m sure they would’ve answered differently if someone else had been asking, my castmates guessed I was the smart one, or the sweet one, or the “fun Southern one,” or the prude.

(It is amazing that someone would ever think she’d been cast as “the prude,” given the pocket-sized minis!)

But then she writes, disarmingly, that reality TV “is a narcissist’s fantasy come true . . . everyone likes to have an audience. Everyone thinks they deserve one.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The “I” in the Internet: Essay # 1, TRICK MIRROR

  • Having a mutual enemy is a quick way to make a friend — we learn this as early as elementary school — and politically, it’s much easier to organize people against something than it is to unite them in an affirmative vision. And, within the economy of attention, conflict always gets more people to look. — p. 22, Trick Mirror

Sunday Reading: The Haunting of the Mexican Border, p. 22

  • Later I will see Wenders’s film, Paris, Texas, written by Sam Shepard. Watching … in a dark movie theatre, I will experience in advance what I will later come to see on a desert trail — that we are all the myth of America. The playwright’s American dream of abundance is a fragile thing lined with longing, alienation, and rage, things that … we in the country know, and foreigners who adopt our country come to know.

THOTMB, p. 7

There are some jobs I can’t make myself do. An eight to five is deadly; I need to fill more than my stomach. I can’t work in the mines, can’t work at Walmart, and can’t be a Border Patrol agent. For those jobs, you’d have to wear a hairnet or some ridiculous rectangular uniform, or be there for hours on end, like being in a cage. That would be impossible.

p. 5: The Haunting of the Mexican Border

. . . when people from south of the Border drove to Tucson to work and then returned home to live, a time when the U.S. Mexico line was a wire lying on the ground and we crossed the border like birds.

— Kathryn Ferguson

New Book: The Haunting of the Mexican Border, A Woman’s Journey, by Kathryn Ferguson

Found this book in Mesilla! Published by University of New Mexico Press. It begins with a quote:

For those who must leave home and travel to another land.

Introduction:

When you think of fear, you think about the five-foot-long Black Iguana with alligator eyes, ridges of teeth, and spiked backbone. It looks terrifying. As it charges you with world-record speed, you panic. But upon observation, you see that it prefers to dine on flowers and fruit. Such is the nature of fear. It is only imagination, up until the day you are eaten.

Stay tuned.

Calyx Journal 10: Summer/Fall 2019

Look at this beauty!

20191208_150717

Featuring the 2018 Margarita Donnelly Prize for Prose Writing, Michelle Cristiani’s Blessed Are the Breathing.

From Senior Editor Brenna Crotty:

  • This is the issue of transformation. I knew it would be as soon as we accepted two pieces with the word “Molt” in the title. Although they addressed very different themes — the pain of recovery versus the new freedoms of young adulthood — they both flung the windows open on deep feelings of change. And the more I looked for it in this collection of poems and stories, the more I found it. From the grief and catharsis in Ingrid Wendt’s “Blue Morpho” to Michelle Cristiani’s unfolding account of life after a stroke, this issue is filled to the brim with the challenging and exhilarating work of becoming something new.

It isn’t just the words, though. The featured visual art is stunning as well.

Submissions are open through Dec. 31.

The British Stiff Upper Lip on Full Display

p. 232 of Lady in Waiting:

Three years after their eldest child became hooked on heroin, the Glenconners decided to dis-inherit him. The boy was 19. He had to sign a contract, agreeing to relinquish all rights to the British properties (there were substantial properties also in the Caribbean, but the contract only covered Britain. Because the British properties were more important to the family name?)

Darn, even at 19 the kid had enough savvy to require two conditions: a) a bigger monthly allowance; b) an agreement that his parents “cover his future medical bills.” (Did he, self wonders, hire his own lawyer?)

The parents’ fear was that, if anything happened to them, and their ‘seat’ fell to the eldest, he would sell it for drugs. The contract protected the property for future generations. The decision must have been very painful. But — three years? They reached that decision when their son had been addicted for just three years? That was a business decision.

Stay tuned.

Incredible Sentence: Anne Glenconnor

Self had to pinch herself to make sure this was a sentence in an actual book she was reading, not something she had only dreamed about reading:

While our family had been established in the fifteenth century, springing from fortunes in law and then land, the Tennant family had made its — albeit vast — fortune through the invention of bleach in the Industrial Revolution.

— from Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown, pp. 85- 86

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