May 18, 2010
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Lisa Jones' Broken: A Love Story is a unique memoir. While exploring her friendship with Arapaho horse gentler and healer Stanford Addison, Jones accomplishes many things. Not only does she offer insight into Addison's life, but she also gives a clear outsider's perspective of life on the Indian reservation while also chronicling her own journey of spiritual self-discovery. Broken is well-written and totally absorbing.
The Washington Post wrote of the book:
"Jones has a keen journalist's eye... she describes without judgment the dysfunction she encounters and the self-destructiveness of some of the reservation's young men. Jones writes beautifully about the natural world, knows how to bring the people she encounters alive on the page and tells a gutsy, moving story about a significant passage in her own life."
My book, Broken: A Love Story is about my friendship with a quadriplegic Northern Arapaho horse gentler and spiritual healer named Stanford Addison. I met him in 2002 when Smithsonian magazine sent me to his place to write about his work with horses. The moment I met him I was absolutely gobsmacked by his power and gentleness. It was an almost physical sensation. It took me awhile to fully realize this, as I was accustomed to my body delivering me messages more along the lines of I NEED A CHERRY COKE. WITH ICE.
But realize it I did, and for five years I drove my 1992 Toyota Tercel back and forth between my known, white, middle class world in Colorado and Stanford's battered house on Wyoming's Wind River Indian Reservation. Stanford had spent his youth as an drug-dealing, bronc-busting, drug-dealing ladies' man. After being paralyzed in a car accident at 20 he was suicidal for 12 years before he settled into his new role as a spiritual healer. It was about 10 years after this that I arrived at his ragtag horse ranch, where wonderful and terrible things frequently happened in rapid succession. People got healed of major maladies in his sweat lodge before sitting around the dinner table laughing for hours, and the next day a horse could die in a botched gelding operation, or a teenager could be killed in a car accident, or someone would literally not have enough to eat. As for me, I was totally hooked on Stanford and his world, but that meant I could go from feeling apocalyptic to ecstatic and back again during the course of an evening.
My stays in Wyoming ranged from two days to four months in length, but my commutes were always eight hours each way. Music became a huge part of my transition from here to there, a transition that otherwise involved dust storms, M&Ms and, at first, frantic calls home from phone booths. One day I was in the town of Rawlins, Wyoming when something in me started screaming: I HAVE TO BUY A BETTER SOUND SYSTEM. So I did, right there in Rawlins. Years later, I found out the speakers had been wrapped in plastic ever since they left the factory, but no matter, I used the music blaring out of them for many thousands of miles to moderate my mood and steady my courage.
"Maybe You'll Know" - Christine Kane
Christine Kane -- a songwriter based in Asheville (as opposed to Nashville) -- was everything to me while I drove. I love her music and humor, and her lyrics are incredible.
Maybe you'll know
Once you get there's more to it than your survival.
Maybe your soul
is making way for its arrival.
This summed up Stan's journey perfectly, and made me feel braver. After Broken came out, I inscribed and sent a book to Christine, telling her all about how she'd buoyed and helped me and kept me going. I figured she'd read it and think, 'eew,' but a couple of months later, I got a CD from her and a really nice card, which was great.
"Magic Carpet Ride' -- Steppenwolf
When I got past Rawlins and rode northwest through the open, bright, vertigo-inducing high desert towards Stanford's house, this song described (or perhaps dictated) how I felt. I was stepping into something so much less predictable and more magical that what I'd grown up with. It was scary, joyful, totally exciting.
"Indigenous Angel" - Red Cloud and Ulali
This is such a rocking song. Excellent road song.
"If It Be Your Will" - written by Leonard Cohen, sung by Antony
Stanford has a good sense of humor, and sometimes before a sweat lodge he'd say something like, "Time to get going. Get me my helmet and my cape." But once he was in there, he was the real deal -- totally surrendered and obedient to the Creator. This is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.
"Mystical Warriors"- Primeax and Mike
Primeaux and Mike -- one Sioux, one Navajo -- are peyote song singers; and their soft harmonies are absolutely narcotic. I love these guys, and this song is one that Stanford and his son Daniel sing quite a lot. Sometimes I sang it with them.
"Healing Wind"- Primeax and Mike
1952 Vincent Black Lightning - Richard Thompson
The story line of the song involves a young Irish rebel and some police, "who shot young James in an armed robbery." It reminded me of Jevon, a teenage Arapaho boy I met up at Stanford's, liked a lot, and died at 17 when he was stabbed in a street fight. Like James, he was in love and left a bereft sweetie behind. Young men die violent deaths all the time on the reservation, and the Irish flavor of this song universalized the horror of this particular phenomenon.
"Many Rivers to Cross" - Emmanuel Jal
Same here; here's a version of the Bob Marley classic by a former Sudanese lost boy, who even sings about hippos and crocodiles, but whose message as relevant on the Wind River Indian Reservation as it is anywhere.
Once during a break in a sweat lodge, for some reason Stan, or someone, started singing this. A bunch of us started singing along. It was fun.
"Agaetis Byrjun" - Sigur Ros
This came during the writing period... I like to write to music but if the lyrics are too intrusive it gets distracting. Sigur Ros' music is ripe with feeling, but it's sung in Icelandic, so they could be singing about shoe shopping here and it's still heart-stoppingly beautiful.
Brujeria - "El Tato"
Same as above, but in Spanish. The singer wails and wails, and then repeats the word 'tanto' a whole lot of time. The simplest translation is 'so many' or 'so much,' which is as apt a phrase as any for Stanford's life, and my experiences around him.
Lisa Jones and Broken: A Love Story links:
Bibliophile By the Sea review
Boulder Daily Camera review
Colorado Central Magazine review
Confessions of a Book Junkie
Library Journal review
Los Angeles Times review
New West review
Publishers Weekly review
see how we almost fly review
This Lively Earth review
Woman's Day review
albuquerqueARTS interview with the author
CarolineLeavittville interview with the authorw
Colorado Public Radio interview with the author
Denver Post profile of the author
Destination the Journey interview with the author
Huffington Post interview with the author
New York Times Opinionatoressay by the author
The Page 99 Test for the book
Smithsonian Magazine profile of Stanford Addison
also at Largehearted Boy:
other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly highlights of comics & graphic novels)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly highlights of new books)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from this week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists