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Birds of Sorrow: Notes from a River Junction in Northern New Mexico Paperback – July 1, 2000

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

During the '70s, the author, originally from the East Coast, settled down with his family on a plot of land called La Junta at the junction of two rivers in the isolated community of La Madera, N.M., 50 miles north of Santa Fe. In a lively, informal fashion, Ireland ( Mostly Mules ) regales readers with tales of the eccentricities of the region's natives; of trying to make ends meet by working at a cement-block plant; of the travails of building a house and digging a well; and of time spent immersed in nature raising sheep, obsessing over the significance of ravens and domesticating a magpie. Ireland has an sharp eye for nuance, whether he's describing the disease infecting his beloved willow trees--"those wormy bumps, or blisters, as if a great, sudden heat had passed, searing the bark of the willows and raising multitudes of tiny welts"--or washing his daughter's hair--"How she screams and hollers! How sweet and clean and obedient she is when it's done! Saying, in these very words, 'I'll do anything you tell me to do.' " This collection offers a refreshing account of Ireland's experience in the American West, one whose appeal is delightfully idiosyncratic and universally human. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

One persistent form of the American dream is to flee the urban area in search of a simpler and thus somehow more satisfying life in a remote area. Some excellent literature has resulted from this experience, and Ireland continues the tradition. After moving to La Madera, New Mexico, in the mid-1970s, he built a home, nurtured a family, quarreled with his neighbor over water rights, lived in fear of the menacing "bad boys" who drank beer in a parking area nearby, and eight years later moved to Santa Fe. Ireland is a fine writer--introspective but articulate, sensitive to his environment, and brutally frank.
- Harold M. Otness, Southern Oregon State Coll. Lib., Ashland
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Zephyr Press; 1st edition (July 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0939010194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0939010196
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,400,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
There ought to be a name for this genre. The jacket blurb says "nature/Southwest literature". But Annie Dillard did this in the Northeast and Edward Abbey did it all over the Southwest and down rivers. Everett Ruess and Ann Zwinger did it in SE Utah with superb sketches and wood cuts. C.L. Rawlins and Gretel Ehrlich do it in Wyoming with sketches and photographs. Stanley Crawford did it with *Mayordomo* and *A Garlic Testament* a few miles SE of Tom Ireland in the Embudo Valley between Taos and Santa Fe (or halfway to Los Alamos - whichever way your crow flies).
"People who bond with 'place' and then write about it with philosophical comments and profound/funny/zen-like observations along the way" is a bit cumbersome. These people out-Thoreau Thoreau (and I'm from Thoreau, New Mexico [heh heh]; I ought to know). All these authors (and more) do this thing superbly well, in their own unique voices, but all the same, the genre deserves a better name than "nature/Southwest" or "nature/Northeast."
Ireland has added a new dimension with Angie Coleman's joyful paintings of exactly this same country round about. [I've debated about extracting and framing these paintings - still debating. Think I'll have to buy another copy of the book.]
This author reproduces his encounters with his Spanish and Indian neighbors (sometimes poignant, somtimes frustrating, always funny). These little essays/vignettes stand by themselves, but at the very end, the writer includes a story about La Pascualita - a real person who sweeps the roads with her broom and is housed and adopted by the entire community of La Madera. Ireland weaves her into a story that is reminiscent of Rudolfo Anaya, but very much his own.
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