Loeffler, Jack 1936-
LOEFFLER, Jack 1936-
PERSONAL: Born 1936; married; wife's name, Katherine.
CAREER: Writer, historian, and film and radio producer. Producer of film Los Tesoros del espíritu: Familia y fe: A Portrait in Sound of Hispanic New Mexico 1994; and (with Elaine Thatcher) The Spirit of Place (radio program recorded on CD).
Headed Upstream: Interviews with Iconoclasts, Harbinger House (Tucson, AZ), 1989.
(With Katherine Loeffler and Enrique R. Lamadrid) La música de los viejitos: Hispano Folk Music of the Rio Grande del Norte (with CD's; companion book to documentary film), photography by Jack Parsons, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1999.
Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Jack Loeffler has spent decades documenting the American Southwest through sound recordings, film, and print media. Loeffler and his wife, Katherine, with Enrique R. Lamadrid, produced La música de los viejitos: Hispano Folk Music of the Rio Grande del Norte, a book that comes with music CD's and is designed to accompany a documentary film of the same title. Here they focus on the Hispanic songs that can be heard north of the border, their history, and the culture that surrounds them. The music is a blend of the secular and the religious from sixteenth-century Spain, as well as Mexican folk songs. Included are musical scores, lyrics in Spanish with English translations, and diagrams for dances that can be performed to the music. The CD's are of home recording quality, lending an air of authenticity to the music.
The book also includes anecdotes that concern music, but Kim Bates noted at Green Man Review online that it "also includes a real depth of technical detail on the musicians and the way the music is played. . . . The book also touches on the sensitive subject of the impact of outsiders with recording equipment on the musicians and their communities, some of whom go outside their traditional audiences to play in mainstream venues for larger audiences. Equally touchy is the prospect of outsiders playing the music, something that this book obviously facilitates."
Bates agreed with Loeffler's conclusion that it is inevitable that this music will become more integrated into the U.S. mainstream; Bates was "of the opinion that such recognition can lead to pride within a community that encourages younger players to continue traditional styles within their communities."
Loeffler and Elaine Thatcher produced The Spirit of Place, seven CD's recording the content of a thirteen-part radio series focusing on traditional cultures and their relationship with the environment, including the river ecosystems and watershed areas of the American West and Alaska. The series includes commentary by the inhabitants of these regions as well as natural and animal sounds.
Most of the interviews contained in Headed Upstream: Interviews with Iconoclasts were conducted for the radio program Southwest Sound Collage. In addition to Loeffler's own essays on the Navajo and Hopi, there are others by Edward Abbey, Gary DeWalt, Dave Foreman, Garrett Hardin, Alvin Josephy, John Nichols, Douglas Peacock, Godfrey Reggio, Gary Snyder, Anna Sofaer, Stewart Udall, Andrew Weil, and Philip Whalen. Charles Solomon noted in the Los Angeles Times Book Review that these are "people with unconventional approaches to ecological issues and questions of Native American rights." "Here is interesting history," wrote Jack Turner in Western American Literature, "thought-provoking commentary on the increasingly monolithic structure of modern life (over-population, runaway technology, commercial irresponsibility and arrogance, bureaucratic incompetence, government intimidation, etc.), and personal experiences of political resistance to the same." The book's main theme is the preservation of the environment and Native rights, specifically of the Black Mesa region of New Mexico where strip mining has eroded Native lands, forcing thousands of Navajo to leave.
Turner noted that each of these writers, activists, and filmmakers is concerned with the moral, the good, and the ethical. "All share a strong concern for restoring the health of the planet," said Patricia Dubrava Keuning in Bloomsbury Review, "whether they be 'ecoanarchists' who engage in 'nonviolent direct action' like lying down in front of bulldozers, Christians like the Reverend John Fife, a leader of the Sanctuary movement, or Navajo and Hopi activists who call themselves traditional." Many of the viewpoints are anarchist or Marxist. Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield War, explains in one interview that "just insisting on having a little plot and growing your own healthy vegetables is a political act against a country whose basic food growth and distribution system is fascist." Former Secretary of the Interior Udall and Josephy each address the issue of nuclear power and the conflict between Western and Native cultures. Booklist's Virginia Dwyer called the interviews "stimulating reflections on the connections of ethics to ecology."
Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey is Loeffler's tribute to his good friend of many years, with whom he hiked thousands of miles and shared hundreds of campfires, and who he secretly buried in their beloved desert at Abbey's death in 1989. Edward Abbey was born and raised in Pennsylvania and studied philosophy at the University of Mexico. He left academia to become a ranger and begin writing his twenty-one volumes of fiction and nonfiction, the first being The Brave Cowboy, published in 1956. He used his writing to protest the development and exploitation of the American West and became an inspiration to the environmental movement, particularly with his novel The Monkey Wrench Gang.
Abbey was a defender of the individual and the environment and a critic of the Eastern literary establishment, feminism, immigration rights, and the cattle industry. In a review of Adventures with Ed, New York Times Book Review critic T. Coraghessan Boyle compared the "cranky forthrightness" of Abbey's writing with that of Whitman and Thoreau. Boyle said that Abbey "was aware of the contradictions, the rift between what he considered his true self—the retiring, book-loving seeker of solitude and open spaces—and the free-spirited persona he adopted, the gun-toting desert rat, the ragged messiah of the box canyons and badlands who wore a full beard and a cowboy hat decorated with pop-tops from liberated beer cans."
In a 1977 journal Loeffler quotes in his book, Abbey described himself as a literary recluse who could be lured only by "money vice, the prospect of applause." Boyle noted that Abbey attacked the subsidized grazing of cattle on public lands afforded the industry while reading at the University of Montana in Missoula, but "had no problem with tucking away a steak dinner or grilling up a hamburger. He decried the pollution of the wilderness even while flinging beer cans out the window of his pickup, and he railed against overpopulation despite having married five times and fathered five children." Boyle also noted that although Abbey had once edited a leftist bilingual newspaper, "he stood opposed to immigration from Mexico on the grounds that more people—however downtrodden and deserving—were anathema to the wilderness he revered."
Loeffler chronicles Abbey's life, having gleaned a great deal of information from his family, but it is his own memories of his friend, which comprise the second half of the book, that provide the real picture of who Abbey was. It is that "aspect [of Adventures with Ed] that makes it of special interest," observed Morris Hounion in Library Journal. Booklist's Donna Seaman wrote that Loeffler's "intimate, incisive, and loving portrait of Abbey replaces the old, brittle caricature with an indelible body-and-soul vision of a true American original."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bloomsbury Review, March, 1990, Patricia Dubrava Keuning, review of Headed Upstream: Interviews with Iconoclasts, p. 5.
Booklist, December 1, 1989, Virginia Dwyer, review of Headed Upstream, p. 712; February 15, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey, p. 985.
Library Journal, January, 2002, Morris Hounion, review of Adventures with Ed, p. 102.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 19, 1989, Charles Solomon, review of Headed Upstream, p. 14.
New York Times, April 29, 2002, Blaine Harden, "A Friend, Not a Role Model: Remembering Edward Abbey, Who Loved Words, Women, Beer, and the Desert."
New York Times Book Review, February 10, 2002, T. Coraghessan Boyle, review of Adventures with Ed, p. 8.
Western American Literature, summer, 1990, Jack Turner, review of Headed Upstream, pp. 184-185.
Green Man Review,http://www.greenmanreview.com/ (July 26, 2002), Kim Bates, review of Los Tesoros del espíritu: Familia y fe: A Portrait in Sound of Hispanic New Mexico.*
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