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Sunday, 26 June 2011


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I'll read "Empire," even though I already know Cynthia Ann's story; even more amazing than her story, IMHO, is that of her son, Quanah Parker. I would be interested to know if his story is part of this book.

However good "Empire" is, I'm not sure it could beat Evan S. Connell's "Son of the Morning Star," which is ostensibly about the Custer massacre, but is really more about the Old West.

By Old West, I mean that part of the US between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. American movies to the contrary, almost none of the famous events of the Old West took place west of the Rockies, except the shootout at the OK Corral. That *was* west of the Rockies, sort of...and Wyatt Earp was eventually buried in LA. His pallbearers included the movie stars William S. Hart and Tom Mix.


Well, thanks Mike; I had to buy the soundtrack to the movie, and of course the book on Quanah Parker. Kindle, though; no ink died.

Interesting that he took the last name of his mother; seems jewish, jewish tradition is matrilineal, I think; why three of my kids could be considered jews; maybe they are the lost tribe. 8-) Somebody more imbued with jewish tradition may correct me.

I blather ...

Regarding the photo of Billy the Kid, I can't resist asking, in light of the previous posts:

The original photo is no longer copyrighted, being 130 years old. Would you say that the photo you posted is therefore not copyrighted? Or, because it's a photo of the original photo, is it therefore copyrighted by whomever took the photo of the photo?

The difference, of course, is that in the former case, you can post the photo because it's not copyrighted, while in the latter case, you're depending on fair use rights (although it's interesting to note that photographers who argue that copyrights should be perpetual and there should be no such thing as fair use, presumably object to your posting it).

Empire of the Summer Moon - Hands down, the best book for me last summer, I read it twice.

To me it's more valued as a historical artifact than just a photo in itself.

PS thanks for the info on Bob's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" I always took it to be a soldier, maybe anti-war song. Bob actually sounded like he could sing on that one.

"even more amazing than her story, IMHO, is that of her son, Quanah Parker. I would be interested to know if his story is part of this book."

Yes. It follows the story of Quanah and ends with his death, just after he had Cynthia Ann's bones re-interred in Oklahoma.

The broader sweep of the book follows the rise and fall of the Comanche, and the politics of the Southern Plains. I think you'll like how Gwynne doesn't take sides and doesn't romanticize or villify either the whites or the natives. He's very forthright about atrocities on both sides, too, eschewing the sort of political correctness that tends to overlook the worst of the violence.

The way I've described this book is that there are seven or eight stories in it that could each be a book of their own. I think it's as good as Evan Connell's book, although it's been a long time since I read that.


That's actually a rat's nest I can't unravel. Interesting conundrum, though.


"I read it twice"

I almost never read books twice (and am sometimes less enthralled when I do) but I was just thinking that I am going to read this one again. After I finish my current read, Douglas Brinkley's splendid biography of Henry Ford. I can't recommend that one yet because of the Pinker Rule*, but it certainly is keeping my attention up to 1924....


*The Pinker Rule states that you're not allowed to recommend a book until you finish reading it.

I'm just about finished with Empire of the Summer Moon. While I agree that it is a fascinating story, and obviously well-researched, it is written in a style that is very tiring to read. I think I understand his plan - that is to present all of the influences that informed the decisions and actions of the various groups chronicled in the story. I think the artifice would have benefitted from a more disciplined chronological approach. I got very tired of having to learn what happened in the mid-18th or 19th century over and over in the narrative. I still recommend the book, but with the caveat that there is a certain amount of slogging required to get through it.

" it is written in a style that is very tiring to read...there is a certain amount of slogging required to get through it."

Wow. I could not disagree more completely. I guess that goes to show that everyone's reaction is potentially very different, huh?


Once again, the Kindle version is priced higher than the paperback, which really irks me.

But I'm a sucker for a good read, so I bought it regardless.

I know I've already commented once...but...

I just finished David McCullough's new book (and current non-fiction bestseller) "The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris." I highly recommend it -- it's very readable. Most interesting, it doesn't deal with two famous episodes of Americans in Paris, that of revolutionary and post-revolutionary times, when Franklin, Adams and Jefferson all spent a good deal of time in Paris, nor does it deal with the post World War I era of Hemingway, Man Ray, the Steins, etc.

Rather, it focuses on the mid to late 19th century, and Americans who went to Paris and because of the unique opportunities there, and who did very well in later life, often becoming famous. All of the stories are interesting (how can you go wrong with a cast that includes James Fenimore Cooper and his great pal Samuel F. B. Morse hanging out in the Louvre where Morse was learning to paint, Oliver Wendell Holmes learning medicine, Mary Cassatt, etc. One of the most interesting episodes was when Charles Sumner was taking classes at the Sorbonne and saw black men taking classes and showing the same intellectual force that he and the other students had -- and that observation made him into one of the driving forces for abolition in the U.S. Senate (and almost got him beaten to death on the Senate floor.)

Fascinating book.


I'd just like to second the recommendation for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. I saw it so many times I forget how many. And I still have the soundtrack on vinyl somewhere. And I could play Knockin' in my guitar-player-aspiring days. :)

Following TOP has doubled my book purchases in number (and tripled the amount spent on books because of the photography tomes). And I don't regret it in the least. Sometimes I not only buy the book dicussed at TOP, but I even follow its editors advise on where to read it - I enjoyed reading Walden outdoors, during a lovely short stay in France. Thank you, Mike!
Well now. Ever since reading Bury my heart at wounded knee and what other American authors like Peter Matthiessen and Barry Lopez have written about what happened on 'Turtle Island' (must mention Gary Snyder here too) once my European forebears crossed The Pond, I am truly fascinated (and moved) by American Native history. So I am already looking out to the day Empire of the summer moon arrives at my doorstep. Mike, thanks again.

Thanks for the book tip, I just (pre)ordered it on Amazon UK, only GBP 6.56! That's 6,96 euro, pretty cheap.

Of course so I had to add some more books to get free delivery, so I also ordered Andre Kertesz: Spezial Fotografie (Stern Portfolio) and Street Photography Now. Been meaning to buy that last book for a while. It looks like it's on sale too now, it's only 13.22, before it was something like 20 pounds.

I really enjoy historical novels, so I'm looking forward to this one. I haven't read a lot about (native) American history, besides some books on Winnetou and Old Shatterhand by Karl May, but those are mostly fictional.

If you have some spare time, I just finished all seven parts of the Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough. About 1000 pages each, but definitely worth reading if you're into history, and incredibly well written. It's about the final years of the Roman republic, written from the personal perspective of the political leaders, mainly Marius, Sulla, Caesar and Augustus, but also a lot of other important members of the senate. Fascinating stuff.

When my grandfather died we found an old photo album of tintypes and cardboard images. There was a picture of some long forgotten kinsman and scrawled across the top were the words "killed by Billy the Kid". We were never able to verify this as fact, however.

Raiding Comanches killed many early Texas settlers, but they actually signed a treaty with a group of Germans who settled south of San Saba. There is a historic marker placed near the San Saba River making note that this was the only treaty the Comanache ever honored.

Hmmm...no kindle version. Too bad/so sad.


You mention Tom Mix and it reminded me of a book written by Michael Wallis, "The Real Wild West, The 101 Ranch and the Creation of the American West". It's the story of the 101 Ranch and the Miller family. Many of the old western movie stars were working hands on the 101 Ranch. It's a "long" read, but worth the time spent.

The original photo is no longer copyrighted, being 130 years old. Would you say that the photo you posted is therefore not copyrighted? Or, because it's a photo of the original photo, is it therefore copyrighted by whomever took the photo of the photo?

A photograph of a photograph isn't copyrightable independent of the source photo unless it adds original material. I can't imagine that the photo above adds anything, so it isn't protected.

Well, since I live just off Comanche Road here in Albuquerque, I guess I should get this book.

(There is also several Apache Streets, and an Apache Elementary - My kids went to Comanche - but they are not main streets like Comanche.)

According to a story in our local paper, the final price was two million six, when commissions are factored in.

It was purchased by Bill Koch, the not so bad bropther of the two made famous as the source of funding for the Tea Party. Billy also became famous for his run at the America's Cup, and his lawsuits over counterfeit wine bought at auction.

As long as we're making not-directly-photography-related recommendations, allow me to add Michael Ondaatje's 'The Collected Works of Billy the Kid', a truly great and somewhat overlooked book by the man who wrote 'The English Patient'. TCWOBTK was his first book, published while he was in his twenties, a mixture of poetry, prose, and photographs. It's a strange and beautiful thing.

The picture above serves as its cover, in the edition I have anyway -- though interestingly, it's been flipped so that the pistol is in Billy the Kid's right hand. (And, by the way, the photo is credited, 'Courtesy of the Lincoln County Heritage Trust, New Mexico'.)

Empire of the Summer Moon was so compelling I ripped through it in a day. Another Western I would recommend is the current movie Meek’s Cutoff. It’s the true story of pioneers lost in the Eastern Oregon desert while following a guide (Meek) who promised a shortcut to the emerald valleys of that other Oregon over by the ocean. Roger Ebert, for one, gave the film a bunch of stars for showing just what a grueling ordeal it was to journey cross country in a wagon in the 1850s. As a resident of Eastern Oregon, I think the filmmaker got the Eastern Oregon landscape desert-y right. A sidebar: The film was shot in 1:1.33 screen ratio from moviemaking’s earlier times.

Mike wrote:
The movie I recommend—from the era of my youth, like most peoples' favorite movies—would be Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid...

Despite being younger than you, Mike, Kris Kristofferson will forever be Billy the Kid for me, and his face popped into my mind the moment I read your first paragraph. I must've been 12 or so when I first saw that movie, and I am not embarrassed to say that I cried at the end of the Knocking on Heaven's Door scene. I don't know how historically accurate the film was, but it was powerful as a kick from an old stubborn mule.

Ah Pat & Billy, great movie and and even better soundtrack, fits so well with the film. And the best of all is when Slim Pickens is fatally shot and goes to sit by the stock tank to die and his "wife?" comes to sit and wait with him. What a wonderfully photographed moment! That Dylan guy may have a career in film soundtracks! And Donnie Fritts was in there is well!

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid gives a whole new meaning to "dropping a dime" on somebody.
Watched the original in a theater hoping for another Wild Bunch and was disappointed. This week I'll Netflix the directors cut and give it another shot (pardon the expression).

Dear rp,

That is incorrect. Copyright depends in no way on the content. You hold a copyright to any photograph you make, regardless of subject.

The copyright may have no significant value, but the photo is still protected.

pax / Ctein

I watched the original "3:10 to Yuma" the other night. It's all about psychology, really: Glen Ford tries to slowly wear Van Heflin down. I was really struck by the film, one of my favorites.

Its the first I have heard of this book, the fact you have read bury my heart is reason to trust your review. I loved the book and agree with your comments re the author. It was to date at least the best book of its kind I had read.

I also thought peckinpahs movie was stunning and i loved dylans rendition, thanks for the info re the book.

Thanks for the book recommendations. Now I've got a longer list of summer reading to wrestle with.

I am absolutely getting the book and the movie for my dad for his birthday--and he's tough to shop for. So thanks!

Thank you, looking forward to reading Empire of the Summer Moon. In the same genre my favorite read is Son of the Morning Star by Evan Connell, or almost any collection of essays by Connell.

A side note, seeing that Jan up there mentioned Karl May...

If we are talking about Wild West myths, Karl May is a perfect example. His noble Apache chief Winnetou is a complete fabrication, and Winnetou's friend Old Shatterhand came to mean so much to May that he himself started believing O.S. was based on his adventures in the Wild West. But in fact May had never visited North America until he wrote most of the books.

But, man, was that powerful stuff when I was a kid! Two noble heroes righting wrongs and punishing villains! I devoured all the books published here and still have a selection right above my head while I'm writing this. Myth and legend are stronger than the truth. :)

As a side note to this side note, when the adventures of Winnetou were filmed, they used the Plitvice Lakes as one of the settings, as well as some places near my hometown. There's supposedly even one scene where a local bus got into the background of an Indian attack. Not to mention some of the "Indians" having wrist watches. :)

Mike, interesting. I've never seen that Billy's image. But Willian Loren Katz's book, "Black Indians" (1986-Ethrac Publications Inc.) notes that "the only photograph of this mass murderer who killed twenty-one men before he died at twenty, shows a sloppy, bucktoothed, moronic young thug."
" What the real Billy the Kid lacked in looks, height, and bearing a tall, charming and handsome Cherokee Bill had in real life"

Cherokke Bill was what is called "black Cherokee" and the author goes long describing his criminal life. He was the number one on the U.S. marshal's "wanted list" . Being much more charming, dangerous and handsome than Bily the Kid, he was a black indian: no way to be glorified by Hollywood.
And, while Billy "cried in the jail", Cherokee Bill went to execution in a "cool to the last" way. "Asked if he had any last words to offer to the assembled crowd, he answered calmly - "No, I came here to die-not to make a speech"

I read "Empire ... " on your recommendation; had to wait for 6 months to get it off of the reserve list from our public library. It seemed to me that some of the data in the book found its way into the new "True Grit." I also suggest "Blood and Thunder," by Hampton Sides. It covers the Southwest a little before the Quanah Parker era, and discusses the life and times of Kit Carson and the Navajo Nation. Those two books, and my trip last Fall through the Southwest really packaged the whole experience.

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee is one of the most profound experiences I have had in a book. Just broke my heart; should be taught in every American high school methinks. I will buy this new book on your recommendation. Thanks for the post. As ever, you surprise me.

But Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid? Even with a soft spot for Sam Peckinpah, that is a stretch. Much prefer the Paul Newman version, The Left Handed Gun, by Arthur Penn in 1958, but then I always prefer anything with Paul Newman.

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