Comanche Midnight

"Comanche Midnight" Essays by Stephen Harrigan

Comanche Midnight” Essays by

Writing timeless essays that capture vanished worlds and elusive perceptions, Stephen Harrigan is emerging as a national voice with an ever-expanding circle of enthusiastic readers. For those who have already experienced the pleasures of his writing-and especially for those who haven’t-Comanche Midnight collects fifteen pieces that originally appeared in the pages of Texas Monthly, Travel Holiday, and Audubon magazines and is categorized in General Interest, Travel, Southwestern Studies, and Essays.

The world’s Harrigan describes in these essays may be vanishing, but his writing invests them with an enduring reality. He ranges over topics from the past glories and modern-day travails of America‘s most legendary Indian tribe to the poisoning of Austin’s beloved Treaty Oak, from the return-to-the-past realism of the movie set of Lonesome Dove to the intimate, off-season languor of Monte Carlo.

If the personal essay can be described as journalism about that which is timeless, then Stephen Harrigan is a reporter of people, events, and places that will be as newsworthy years from now as they are today. Read Comanche Midnight and see if you don’t agree.

A former senior editor of Texas Monthly magazine, Stephen Harrigan writes full-time from his home in Austin.

“In assembling a book like this one, there is a natural tendency for the writer to think of it hopefully as more than the sum of its parts, as a solid coherent statement rather than a scattershot collection. I’ve tried not to saddle Comanche Midnight with aspirations it cannot fulfill, but on the other hand I don’t believe that the components of this book came together by accident. For every piece I’ve included, there are two or three others that are still mouldering in the lost-magazine graveyard. Some of them don’t deserve to be resurrected, and in fact it would pain me to think anybody would ever read them again. Others, though, are pretty good. I left them out because, in some vague way, they didn’t belong. There is no great theme to this book that I can decipher, but it seems to me that all the pieces at least share the same frequency. They address my old preoccupations with worlds that have vanished, communication that is sealed off, perceptions that are out of reach. There is an air of mystery about them, and it is that mystery that finally emboldens me to think of them as true essays. They are a record not just of certain events and people and places, but of the mind that witnessed them, and that is still trying to grasp what it beheld.” -Introduction, xi

Photo by: Susan Hanson

Photo by: Susan Hanson

My Nature & the Quest for Meaning class not only read Comanche Midnight and discussed the topics that it brought up, but also got to meet Stephen Harrigan, himself. Mr. Harrigan spent a class period with us and talked about his book and his career as a writer. It was interesting to hear about his experiences and everything that led him to write Comanche Midnight. Not only did he speak to our class, he also offered to sign our books. This is what he wrote in mine:

“To Noelle, with best wishes. Best of luck with your writing as well.”
Stephen Harrigan
2/28/13

Contents

  • Author’s Note
  • Acknowledgments
  • Comanche Midnight
  • The Temple of Destiny
  • The Soul of Treaty Oak
  • Highway One
  • The Bay
  • Taking Care of Lonesome Dove
  • Feeling Flush
  • The Anger of Achilles
  • Eighteen Minutes
  • Rock and Sky
  • “The Tiger is God”
  • Selling the Ranch
  • Swamp Thing
  • The Roof of Eden
  • The Man Nobody Knows

“[The Anasazi] did not impose. Their residences took the forms that the natural surroundings suggested-built into crevices, bundled up against cliffs, dug into the earth, or carved discreetly into the rock itself. The Anasazi were not ecological saints-they wore out the land in places and stripped it of its resources-but they were attuned to the raw presence of the earth in ways that do not seem possible anymore.” 160

Thought-Provoking Questions

What happened to the Anasazi? 158
Were they driven out by enemies? 158
Did their crops fail? 158
Did their political structure break down? 158
Were they abducted by UFO’s? 158

“Wherever you stop to rest, leave your marks on the rocks and cliffs so that others will know who was there before them.” 162

Praise

“…a fine book of essays in the tradition of Barry Lopez, Rick Bass, Annie Dillard…This is a book for the general reader, written by a truly literary stylist with remarkable renderings of place and character.”
-James Magnuson, author of Ghost Dancing

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