Books

Tony Hillerman: People of Darkness


People of Darkness

Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 336 pages
Author: Tony Hillerman
Price: $9.99
Format: Paperback
US Publication Date: 2009-05
Amazon

Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police, introduced in Tony Hillerman’s 1980 novel, People of Darkness, is one of the enduring characters of mystery fiction. He embodies the conflicts felt by many bicultural people who struggle to integrate within their own lives influences from the modern, white world (Chee studied anthropology at the University of New Mexico and is considering joining the FBI) and their traditional cultural heritage (he’s studying to be a yataalii or Navajo healer).

A clear literary precedent is Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, the half-Aboriginal detective in Arthur Upfield’s detective novels: like “Bony” Chee draws on his multi-cultural knowledge and experience in solving crimes. But Chee is more palatable to modern tastes: the Navajo are a sovereign nation and Chee can interact with the biligana world of white people on his own terms, without needing to embrace its values.

As is typical with Hillerman novels, People of Darkness begins by plunging you into the action. In this case, a bomb is set off at a cancer clinic. Then a box of keepsakes is stolen, a shadowy character passes through town, and a man is murdered. It all seems to have something to do with a group called the “People of Darkness” and peyote and an oil-drilling accident which occurred in the late 1940s. And because it’s a Hillerman novel readers get an ample serving of Navajo culture and New Mexico geography along with their mystery. That aspect is excellent as always (in fact, it’s the main reason I keep returning to Hillerman’s books) and the character of Chee is complex and believable.

Too bad Hillerman had a tin ear when it came to romance: the story of Chee’s dalliance with the white schoolteacher Mary Landon rings false from beginning to end. But it’s worse than that: Mary, like the Chee’s girlfriends in the later novels, is little more than a plot device to allow Hillerman to explore Chee’s attitude towards his Navajo heritage. Setting that weakness aside, People of Darkness is an enjoyable mystery novel which provides a glimpse inside a culture which is foreign to most people.

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Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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