Southwestern American Literature is a biannual scholarly journal that includes literary criticism, fiction, poetry, and book reviews concerning the Greater Southwest.
Since its inception in 1971, the journal has published premier works by and about some of the most significant writers of the region.
Southwestern American Literature is indexed in The MLA International Bibliography, which can be found in most North American and European higher-education institutions, and Humanities International Complete, which can be found in libraries throughout North America.
© Center for the Study of the Southwest, Texas State University.
About twenty years ago, when I still lived in Arizona, I was driving home late one night but found a train stopped on the tracks, blocking my normal route. It turned out that a transient had been run over, and the cops were there doing their thing and asking everyone to turn around. This was late summer when everything was hot and dry and the dust drifted off the ground, giving everything a rusty haze—even in the dark. I backtracked and headed east through town to get to the highway that cut across the desert and the reservation toward home. The AC wasn’t working so well in my pick-up, so I rode with the windows down in hopes of catching a breeze. I switched the radio from Buck Owens to Metallica to keep me awake. All the streets looked abandoned.
I came to a stoplight at a major intersection and noticed a woman standing in the median. She kept looking around as if lost or confused. She was probably in her mid to late thirties, and she wore jean shorts and a Suns basketball shirt. Her hair stood big and feathered which even then seemed a little dated. She spotted me and started waving her arms.
“Hey,” she said. “Can you give me a ride?”
Now, I was still pretty young and had been told not to stop for hitchhikers, but I got the feeling this lady was desperate and needed a hand. I figured ignoring her or lying about going the other way would be shameful, so I waved her over and unlocked the passenger side door. She jogged across the blacktop, got in, and buckled up right as the light turned green. I turned left, drove a few blocks north, and asked if she was okay. Her hands kept shaking. She had a bit of dried blood at the corner of her mouth.
“That bastard tried to put me in a cage,” she said. “I’m lucky I got away.”
“What? Do you want to call the cops?”
“No. Can you just take me to my friend’s house?”
“Someone tried to put you in a cage?”
“Can you take a right up here at the corner?”
I don’t know if she had been hooking, in a domestic dispute, having a bad one-night stand, or if she had been kidnapped by some maniac. Hot air blew through the windows, and she dried her eyes with her sleeve. I started to pull over at the corner next to a used car lot with patches of prickly pear out front.
“No, not here,” she said. “That will look fishy to the cops. Just turn right and go down a ways.”
I did as she asked, but I really started to wonder what was going on. I didn’t know if she was for real or just putting on an act to get me down some dark alley. Did she have some friends waiting to carjack me? If she was hooking then why was she dressed like she was going to a Fourth of July BBQ? Why didn’t she want to call the police if a lunatic tried to lock her in a cage? I don’t know. And I’ll never know. I drove along the quiet street and pulled over.
“Thank you so much,” she said. “You really saved my ass.”
She jumped out of my truck and disappeared into the hot blackness. She was just gone. I quickly drove straight home with the windows rolled up and the doors locked.
I think about that encounter a lot. I wonder what really happened to that woman and what ever became of her. Picturing some psycho shoving a woman in a cage is a frightening image. Of course there is nothing new about men trying to posses women; it’s just not always that literal. Men have clubbed women over the head, stymied them in the workplace, and ignored their talents and insights for too long. The topic of men objectifying women is addressed here in Alexandra M. Landeros’s short story, “The Sleeping Mexican.” Landeros cuts to the bone of problems concerning race and gender with a dedication to verisimilitude that is rarely seen.
We also have two superb essays that inspect masculine insecurity. In “Barracuda: Cars and Trucks in Cormac McCarthy’s Fiction,” Lydia R. Cooper argues how automobiles can be seen as phallic extensions and/or replacements for McCarthy’s male characters. Maybe now we will understand why Anton Chigurh is so grumpy. Similarly, Amanda R. Gradisek’s “The Disappearing Man: Masculinity, the Threat of Domesticity, and the West in The Professor’s House” explores the nuances of male identity in Willa Cather’s novel.
This issue also has some wonderful poetry by Sara Burr, Matt Krane, and Dan Jacoby. All of them are new voices to Southwestern American Literature, but I’m sure it won’t be the last you hear of them. Of course we also have some familiar voices as far as criticism. Robert Murray Davis reviews two new books, and Monica Montelongo Flores gives her thoughts on the Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro by Gloria Anzaldúa and the film Bone Tomahawk staring Kurt Russell.
Needless to say, this installment is packed with thoughts, ideas, stories, and poetry that captures all the wildness and madness that happens in the Southwest. So sit back, relax, and take a look. You never know what you’ll find in Southwestern American Literature.