Reviews: Four Novels by Rick Collignon
Below are Larry Godfrey’s thoughts on Rick Collignon’s series of four novels about the village of Guadalupe, in northern New Mexico. Rick Collignon will be at the Festival on Saturday, September 28 at 10:00 for the panel Imagined worlds: The art of literary fiction.
My second reading through Rick Collignon’s Guadalupe series suggests to me that these four novels might be placed in company with William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha saga, Louise Erdrich’s Chippewa series, William Kennedy’s Albany novels All are regional composites of American life underpinning a growing richness of American literature.
Like Faulkner’s, too, Collignon’s themes include the impingement of time past on time present, and a racism venomous and ugly as the “coils of water moccasins hung from tree limbs” in a Mississippi flood observed by Collignon’s Obie Poole – a racism inimical to American ideals and corrosive of the American Dream. Hovering over all Collignon’s novels, both blasting and blessing the present, are the old Santos carved from cottonwood, haunting links to the hopes and failures of the first settlement of Guadalupe, New Mexico.
Rick Collignon. The Journal of Antonio Montoya. Denver: MacMurray and Brick, 1996.
“José Montoya’s mother and father were killed early one warm August morning by a cow.” With this memorable opening sentence Collignon’s reader is tilted off balance, never quite regaining equilibrium throughout the course of this poignant, beautiful portrait of Guadalupe, New Mexico, where both the quick and dead, with their silent Santos, occupy the same time and space in their struggle for understanding.
Rick Collignon. Perdido. Denver: MacMurray and Brick, 1997.
“The nigger came to Guadalupe in the summer of the year 1946…” This startling opener along with the image of a naked gringa hanging from a beam of Las Manos Bridge indicates the major theme of this novel. Nevertheless, the story of Madewell Brown is not told until two novels hence, and the outsiders here are Anglo, past and present. Compelling and fast-paced, this quintessentially American novel depicts the racial violence which mars Guadalupe along with much else of America.
Rick Collignon. A Santo in the Image of Cristóbal García. Cave Creek, Arizona: Unbridled Books, 2010 (First published by BlueHen, 2002)
An apocalypse of fires, this poignant gathering of old men is perhaps the most complex of Collignon’s novels, and all the more compelling and satisfying for that reason.
Rick Collignon. Madewell Brown. Cave Creek, Arizona: Unbridled Books, 2009.
Parallel, ultimately intersecting odysseys by African-American Rachel Parish of Cairo, Illinois, and Hispanic Cipriano Trujillo of Guadalupe, New Mexico. Both attempt to achieve understanding of their present as they probe into a violent, disturbing past.