News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Tuesday I finished News of the World by Paulette Jiles and it felt like going home, if home were Texas in 1870. It unfolded like an old Western - a quick read where Cowboys and 'Indians'* were on the lose in large, ungoverned Texas and, all the while, a lone old man, Captain Kidd, tried to bring a young girl, Johanna, abducted by the Kiowa Indians four years earlier, safely back to her aunt and uncle.
Most fascinating were two elements: (1) The way news traveled then (as opposed to now). Whereas news cycles today are about 12 minutes (quite legitimately, people will have said everything one could say about current events on Twitter within minutes of it happening), Captain Kidd honors the true story of those who once ran news between soldiers during the civil war and later read news by traveling through towns on cart and buggy with the latest papers brought over from around the world. News of London, of India, etc. used to read like fairy tales only 150 years ago. Now, we take for granted the public world in which we are constantly plugged.
(2) Jiles' insight into Johanna, who made real the experiences of those that were captured by Indians and later asked to re-enter civilization. Most times, even if less than a year had passed, captives either attempted forever to return to the tribes that had once held them captive, or became incredibly removed from society. This idea provoked a lot of wonder in me. We are used to eating with fork and knife, we are used to towns and groceries, but what do we miss out on in not being more integrated into the nature from which we come? This is all too often the question. A modern take on this dichotomy between 'wild' and 'civilized' might be the film Captain Fantastic.
All in all, it was a pleasant read, set in the beautiful and chaotic Texas of old (and, yet, somehow, of time immemorial).
*Indians was the colloquial at this time, but let us remember we are talking about Native American tribes.