The Riders of the Purple Sage and the End of History

There is something pulling me into the scenario: when I first traveled heads on toward the continental divide, some years back, the West became by definition my part of the US, and some portion of me stayed out there, waiting and advancing memories at regular intervals.

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[taken on the way from Los Alamos down on the way to Espanola]

I regularly dream of these colors, of the weight they had on these days in late December.

The crumbling mesa-geography was, no doubt, the most wholesome and beautiful landscape I had seen to that point.

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I’d honestly like to come up with more than these curt one-liners, but somehow the Western scape is beyond me, even now – this central European kid has no adequate vocabulary to translate its geographical awe into extended descriptive sentences.

To borrow a phrase from Captain Willard here –

The light and space of New Mexico really put a zap on my head.

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This speechlessness certainly accounts for parts of my attraction to a) literatures of the West and b) the frontier. In fact, the last regular class I took before this dissertation thing really took off (over here, you’re not required to do course work while you’re processing your diss, nor would I really find the time with the teaching load I have stacked high up on my priority list) was a reading course on The American Western Novel, including Cooper’s The Prairie, Robert M. Bird’s The Jibbenainosay (right, I mentioned that at some length in my discussion of Melville’s Confidence Man, some while back), a host of other stories, and: Zane Grey’s The Riders of the Purple Sage (1912); and this particular perennial will be de rigeur on the program for the upcoming I-don’t-know-how-many-blogging-days. The connexion with

– ah! Lovecraft! –

is not exactly obvious, but still very viable, and workable, and related to my working hypothesis, here and dissertation-wise, that Lovecraft’s use of race as an issue can be explained best in connection with his use and re-establishment of the frontier as an apocalyptic place. To better understand the fusion of all three, race-frontier-apocalypse, I’m picking out literay/cultural texts to read his stories through.

I’ll pour another post out on how the Riders of the Purple Sage build the frontier, and then I’ll go and apocalyptize the place, as I find it.