Friday, April 09, 2010

Seldom Disappointed

Seldom Disappointed is Tony Hillerman's memoir/autobiography.

I kind of fell into this book by accident. This autumn, Lord willing, I hope to go to New Mexico with Penny for a few days. We're looking forward to checking out the Taos Wool Festival, and doing a bit of sightseeing in several other locations. In order to get myself ready for New Mexico, I've been reading a few books to get me "in the mood."

A few months ago I reread Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. I also read a cookbook - The Feast of Santa Fe by Huntley Dent. Then I remembered Tony Hillerman's mysteries, and checked out Skeleton Man from the library. It was a reread, and I enjoyed it this second time around, enough so to check out a couple more of his books, and to request his memoirs through PaperBackSwap.

I really liked this book. Hillerman seems to have been a very amiable man. His childhood memories of growing up in Oklahoma during the Depression were realistic, but kind. His family was poor, but they did what they could, and always looked to help others even worse off than they were. His father died before Tony finished high school, and by then World War II was in progress. Tony enlisted in the army and served in Europe. His wartime memories made up a good portion of the book. After he got home, he married, and he and his wife had a baby girl. As time passed and they became aware that they were not going to have any more children, he and his wife adopted five other children.

He worked as a journalist, and that's when he began saving scraps of memories for his later books. People, places, events - all were collected in his mind as he covered various stories for the newspaper. The last third of the book tells how those memories worked their way out into novels, biographies, non-fiction, and his Indian mysteries.

Hillerman was funny, descriptive, and grateful. No whining in this book. He sums it all up like this:

"...a final summary look at my seventy-five years is required.

They've been far better than anyone deserves, two thirds of them brightened with Marie, who rarely saw a disaster in which she couldn't find something funny, and a lot of them made tense, nerve-wracking, interesting, and joyful by the bringing up of six children. My three fourths of a century has been notable for fortunate outcomes and rare disappointments.

There are two primary reasons for this. First, Mama and Papa sent us out into life knowing it was just a short run toward that Last Great Adventure, and understanding the Gospels Jesus used to teach us were the road map to make getting there a happy trip. That covers the first years. The last fifty-two years have been filled with love, joy, and laughter by a wonderful wife, partner, and help-mate named Marie."

Tony Hillerman died in 2008 at the age of 83.



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