Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thoughts for the day: Or just how trite is it ...

... to quote Dwamish Chief Seathl (Seattle)? And can you say, "reverse snobbery?"

I was going to reread Douglas Preston's 1992 "Cities of Gold: A Journey Across the American Southwest in Coronado's Footsteps," which has been gathering dust on a shelf in Chariton since I read it soon after the paperback edition was published. It's one of the better examples of pop history, a good informative fast-moving read. I liked it then and I'll like it again --- later.

Early on just as I was getting interested I got aggravated at Preston, who went to the trouble in opening pages of pointing out his superioriority in education, family affluence and background ("I came from Boston, and most of the male members of my family had gone to either Harvard of Princeton and the females to Wellesley. Walter came from Wichita Falls, Texas ....") to the education, family affluence and background of his traveling companions and those he proposed to write about. Pissed me off. So I reshelved it. Simon & Schuster got my $14 fifteen years ago, when you could still buy a decently-bound book for $14, so what the heck. It'll look better another day. Or was I just struck down in the prime of an introduction by a bad case of reverse snobbery? Why shouldn't an author with a fancy East Coast background now slumming in the Desert Southwest be honest about it?

I did read the "quote" page, which is where authors with aspirations plant profound quotes from profound people to --- among other reasons --- make the point that they plan to be profound, too. One quote was from T.S. Eliot (wouldn't you know?); the other, from Chief Seattle (or Seathl). I really liked the Seattle quote and I'm going to put in here trite, though that may be. Still chasing Gypsies, I'm fresh out of profound today and I've got to get to mowing lawn since it's finally stopped raining:

"When the ... memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone.

"Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds." (Seathl, 1854)

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