Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Seldom Disappointed: Memoirs by Tony Hillerman

I haven't read any of Hillerman's mysteries, yet here I am with a hardcover copy of his memoirs that I picked up in one of my California trips. It's a remainder, of course. Someone must have recommended them to me, so I spent the nickel, parked the book on my shelf and waited for an opportunity to read it.

Sick in bed is just that opportunity, and I'm damning the book with the faintest praise if I say this is the best condition in which to enjoy it, too. His copy editor clearly decided Hillerman's memoirs called for a lower standard than (I assume) his fiction — a much, much lower standard. As Hillerman recalls episodes in his childhood, his time as a WW2 grunt, reporter and academic, etc., he slips from past tense to present tense and back again — a tendency that quite properly gets beaten out of any kid who enrolls in Creative Writing 101. And there is no lack of incredible spelling errors (not typos, 'cos we see them again and again).

Nevertheless, Hillerman is a charming, self-effacing character with no lack of delightful stories in his quiver. He's the sort of person who enjoyed the Great Depression because he was a kid at the time, and everyone else in his farming community was in the same straits. His experience of the war was a terrible awakening, but when he got his million-dollar wound he determined to make the best possible use of the time given him. And so he has.

Seldom Disappointed is an easy, breezy read. When I'm up to it, I'll see if the local library doesn't have his mysteries in stock, and give one of those a try.