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Going Back to Bisbee by Richard Shelton
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Going Back to Bisbee

by Richard Shelton

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Mr. Shelton's lovely non-fiction book never travels in a straight line, and the reader isn't going to get back to Bisbee any time soon. He rambles, digresses, and describes, explains and reflects, and throws in his own personal philosphy for good measure. And he anthropomorphizes. Boy, does he anthropomorphize, and not just animals but also his old van, buildings, plants, about anything that crosses his path. Since I tend to do that myself, I don't have a problem with it. And he encounters ghosts. I don't have a problem with that, either.

The author's love and respect for the southern Arizona desert makes this book a gem. I learned a bit of history of the area, about a early fort where the Buffalo Soldiers were sent, the Apaches who made the area so unsafe for settlers and miners, the booms and busts of mining in the area, and the resilience of the people who lived in and around Bisbee. I learned a great deal about this desert, and the things, sentient and otherwise, that populate it. And all in a wonderful, lyrical prose. I learned about the author and his tolerant wife, but this was not so much a memoir as it was a journey. The author apparently did not have an ideal childhood, but he did not delve into that part of his life, only alluded to it.

The author has respect for all the natural creatures of the desert, and his writing about our horrid treatment of coyotes, past and present, is especially poignant:

“I do not understand how the person who truly loves a dog, loves it enough sometimes to risk his or her life for it, can exterminate coyotes, the dog's cousin, in hideous and sadistic ways.”

“We love and cherish our dogs because they respond with loyalty and affection, and because they obey us. But the coyote, so much like the dog in appearance and even behavior, has refused to accept us as masters, has spurned us, and we can never forgive it.”

His stories of some of the children he taught can break a heart of stone. Mr. Shelton seems to be an idealist and a dreamer but also very down to earth, and the combination made this book highly readable for those of us who don't mind taking the long way 'round. ( )
1 vote TooBusyReading | Aug 17, 2012 |
A wonderful book that fully exhibits a “sense of place.”. Shelton chronicles a day’s journey from Tucson to Bisbee – but packs in stories and facts from many such trips. This book won a Western Book Award for Creative Non-Fiction. Each chapter can stand alone but I read it straight through. Certainly makes me want to retrace his steps to see the wonderful places he talked about. He describes everything from the social life of coyotes to ghost towns to the history of mining in the west, but does it all in a descriptive and interesting style. ( )
  TheBook | Apr 1, 2008 |
A powerful evocation of the Sonoran desert in Southern Arizona. The reader can almost smell the creosote in the desert rain as Shelton describes a nostalgic return to Bisbee with many intriguing side stories about nature, history and humor. ( )
  vnovak | Nov 3, 2007 |
A kind of love story about Southern Arizona, by a poet who discovered the area during World War II. A splendid introduction to the area. ( )
  dustuck | May 6, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0816512892, Paperback)

One of America's most distinguished poets now shares his fascination with a distinctive corner of our country. Richard Shelton first came to southeastern Arizona in the 1950s as a soldier stationed at Fort Huachuca. He soon fell in love with the region and upon his discharge found a job as a schoolteacher in nearby Bisbee. Now a university professor and respected poet living in Tucson, still in love with the Southwestern deserts, Shelton sets off for Bisbee on a not-uncommon day trip. Along the way, he reflects on the history of the area, on the beauty of the landscape, and on his own life. Couched within the narrative of his journey are passages revealing Shelton's deep familiarity with the region's natural and human history. Whether conveying the mystique of tarantulas or describing the mountain-studded topography, he brings a poet's eye to this seemingly desolate country. His observations on human habitation touch on Tombstone, "the town too tough to die," on ghost towns that perhaps weren't as tough, and on Bisbee itself, a once prosperous mining town now an outpost for the arts and a destination for tourists. What he finds there is both a broad view of his past and a glimpse of that city's possible future. Going Back to Bisbee explores a part of America with which many readers may not be familiar. A rich store of information embedded in splendid prose, it shows that there are more than miles on the road to Bisbee.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:07 -0400)

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