,104111111111W . . . During a Writers’ Round-up in Austin – Photographs by Russell Lee Southwest Review for October, 1935, and I was twenty-four at the time. I am astonished to find that it sums up nearly perfectly my final judgment, not on this particular book alone, but on Dobie’s work as a whole. The book was Tongues of the Monte, which has been re-issued lately as The Mexico I Like, and here is what I said about it: “I feel that Mr. Dobie has found his richest vein in this book. He writes about Mexican ranching-folk, how they live and what they believe. But the whole account, a personal narrative, owes its real distinction to his warm understanding of people and their ways. It is written with a zest and a freedom that only now and then were apparent in Coronado’s Children and his other work. And though he is rigorously classified by the academic as a gatherer of folklore, and even called himself, at least once, a ‘social historian,’ it is when he lets himself go and refuses to behave like any sort of professor at all that his writing is often as pungent and fresh as the smell of brush country early some morning in April. “This book, so far as I know, is the first full-length description of life on the cattle ranges in that vast rugged desert of Northern Mexico, a land as ruthless and magnificent as its cougars or its rattlesnakes. Mr. Dobie is careful with his details, but he also paints vividly. I doubt if any reader of this book will ever feel again that the Mexican and his customs are entirely alien to him. And surely it will be good for us to have this much solid truthsolid earth, I started to say: the stories, the songs, and the people are ,all so close to the soilafter so many stacks of volumes by ladies who have had breathless adventures in some of the better-class hotels. “And still, the best parts of the book are not merely faithful descriptions. They are rather avowals of Mr. Dobie’s affection for simple people and robust ways: for straightforward men, warm-hearted women, and fine horses; for comradeship and easy, footloose living. And when he writes about such things, his prose, which at times is deliberate and factual, takes on a glow, becomes elated, and sings. “The rare power of sympathy, which raises the best of Mr. Dobie’s writing to a dignity far above any that the treatises of other specialists in Southwestern culture have attained to, is more abundantly revealed in this new book than in his others. Surely no reader of Coronado’s Children has forgotten the picture of the ‘second sorriest white man in Sabinal,’ the s town scavenger, seated on his goatskin in a patio bright with zinnias and morning glories, and dreaming of treasure buried in a certain place he knew of, where he would go and dig it up some day. Perhaps there is nothing in Tongues of the Monte better than that epitome of all human desire, but there is still Inocencio, the author’s outspoken companion, and Toribio, the goatherd, who, employed in the rudest of occupations, turns out to be anything but a fool. I do not know another writer whose sympathy has less of the egocentric in it, less of pity or of patronizing. Mr. Dobie is not moved to commiseration by the goatherd’s deplorable standard of living, nor is he indignant at meeting with an almost naked victim of the System. He seems, rather, to think that there may be something in the fellow worth finding out. What is more, he actually takes a liking to him, smell and all. And one suspects that he envies him a little. “The book is a rendering of simpleand sometimes opulentnatures, as seen by a very generous one.” AMEN. I am not sure that this book is better than all the rest. I happen to be a Mexico buff, and I know there are other readers who are more interested than I am in longhorns, mustangs, even Englishmen. I still think “Midas on a Goatskin” is a short masterpiece. But the point is, the same golden generosity flows through all of Dobie’s best work, giving it warm -life and making us return to it with pleasure again and again. July 24, 1964 17
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