Saturday, November 03, 2007

My long-lost British novelist father, Clive Sinclair, just emailed with an update on his latest, "Clive Sinclair's True Tales of the Wild West." He asked me if I didn't mind being acknowledged. Of course I had to oblige, feeling honored he would ask.

(From left to right: Seth, Haidee, Clive and me)

It was nearly four years ago that I journeyed across 11 states in a little over two weeks with him, his son (my boyfriend at the time), Clive's girlfriend and her daughter, as well as her daughter's best friend. We began in San Francisco, making our way up to Wyoming for the "Mother of All Rodeos", down to Wichita, all the way down to San Antonio, where we met Kinky Friedman on his ranch. He gave me a Saint Mary night light.

It was a strange yet exciting predicament to find oneself in, visiting old forts, Indian reservations, film sets from old westerns, buffalo ranches, etc--with five Brits. Clive was doing research for a book, that was all I knew, and I was more than excited about going along for the ride. As one of the most published English critics of the American West and it's pop-culture (I don't know what the competition's like there, but he's ALWAYS reviewing something or another for the Times or the Guardian or something), I assumed he would be writing a travel guide. Given his track record for writing fiction, however, I don't know why I assumed this. His new novel, from what I read in the synopsis, is a work of historical fiction or, as Clive has dubbed it, "Dodgy Realism."

I never held any sort of appreciation for the Western film genre, or anything related to that barbaric time in American history before this trip. The closest bit of interest I felt growing up was for grisly tales of cannibalism, namely the Donner Party story, since I lived very close to the trail they took during their grim sojourn to the unforgiving wilds of the Truckee mountains.

But when I looked at my country's legacy from a British perspective, I could see why it could seem so romantic, so epic; almost mythological. These lawless, enterprising, and at times blood-thirsty early Americans were forces to be reckoned with, forces which still contribute to our national culture and identity (i.e. President Cowboy exploring and exploiting foreign lands in classic wild west tradition).

My trip was enlightening, and many moments will stay with me forever. Staring straight into the eyes of a buffalo, just a few feet away, was one such moment. I don't know how may people can say that they stared straight into the eyes of a beast capable of ripping them to shreds, yet could feel a raw soulfulness that shook them to their core.

I tip my hat off to Clive for giving me the opportunity to experience those moments. And hope that his journeys into the Wild West never end.

No comments: