Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Stephen Bodio's Querencia: A Book review

I know an amazing carpenter, he has the relaxed air of a man who has it just right for him. Secure in his own skill, comfortable in his life. He has the good fortune to be married to a financial genius, not for him the stresses and stains of billing and tax payments. They have a porsche, and about five houses. If you want to hire him he just tells you his day rate and after that you deal with her, email only, she bills you for his time, gives him pocket money and ensures they live well. Very very well. The rest of us live like street dogs. He works for me and I live like a dog. As MCP said "I wish someone loved me that much"

'Querencia' describes a place where we feel safe, the well from which our strength of character is drawn, that little bit of real estate (in our heads or our environment) where we are truly at home. I'm told It comes from the verb 'quere', to desire, to want. Great name for a book. Or a home.

Back in the days before the rise of the bleached shivering whippet, back when smart was still cool and you could earn living writing long-form journalism Steve finds himself at something of a loose end

I had expensive tastes in belongings , adventure, and alcohol.... I had two fifty year old LC. Smith shotguns, one engraved, 500 books, a master-falconers licence and a captive bred Lanner [falcon]
with ancestors from South Africa and Ethiopia. I liked my life but I had nobody to talk to

Steve hooks up with Betsy Huntington and after a while they pack their worldly goods into a yellow Datsun and trade new england for new mexico. There begins a tale of seven years exploring a remarkable landscape with a remarkable woman.

'If there was a breeze you could inhale the incense of burning Pinon and Juniper from the town a mile up wind, strong and sweet, evocative and nostalgic. My sister from back east thought it was "the scent of Mexican cooking spices" Kit Carson said that if you ever smelled it you would return to the high villages of New Mexico as long as you lived.'

' "sounds good to me" this from Chubby firmly. His hand was extended. I took it, and although I could not know it, started living in Magdalena'.

As naturalists of the old school - red of tooth and claw - Steve and Betsy are the perennial students of their own interest. This is a story of an absorption into the landscape, where every rock and fold in the land is a track, a story left behind in a very very slowly evolving landscape. Giant skys, arroyos that flash from dust to full before your eyes, all in the clear harsh light of altitude.

The area is not short on local colour; Steve paints a backdrop so vivid that the found-words jump off the page into that space of the remembered imagination where all the great books make their home.

The middle of route 60 which just seconds before had contained only a few wandering bodies now held a brawl as thick as a snarl of ants on a summer sidewalk. Above the thwhack of fists against bodies rose a cry I will never forget "That horse never fucked nobody!"

Betsy too leaps from the page; a woman who has seen such a variety of different lives that she must have been an amazing co-conspirator, able to explore without judgement, and to summon up both the wisdom of the well travelled and the childlike enthusiasm Ursula Le Guin summed up as "The creative adult is the child who has survived."

Now Betsy would join us, in her own way. She had always been a leisurely climber, and claimed her smoke breaks revealed more wildlife than I ever saw. Now with her bad leg, she might drop and hour or more behind me. If I waited at all obviously she would be furious. She'd walk up slowly, taking pains to stroll rather than labour, only her reddening face betraying her effort. She's stop and eye me angrily from under her bangs as she lit a camel. "Do not wait for me. I am not an invalid. If you insist on seeing me as a burden I shall not come". I was reminded of the time she had told me about some boyfriend who said he "needed" her . "I told him I didn't want to be a necessity or a responsibility. I'd prefer to be an indispensable luxury"

After my first reading of Querencia I lent the book to MOB (my mum) she loved it too

MOB: 'wonderful writing and an amazing eulogy to Betsy"

SBW: I wish someone loved me that much

More soon
Your pal

Here's the Link to Steve's page on Amazon
His blog of the same name 
And a link to some of his journalism