By John C. Mattingly; Judith Penrose Mattingly, illustrations
Morris Publishing, 2017
Reviewed by Eduardo Rey Brummel
Readers of Colorado Central are likely already familiar with Mattingly, since he’s a featured columnist. His latest book, Brayed Expectations, is a collection of brief tales and essays about donkeys. The majority of them are humorous, and all of them are enjoyable.
Mattingly starts at the beginning, when he acquired his first “Rocky Mountain canary.” In the course of the rest of the book, he covers various miners’ tales and gives historical/biological background on donkeys, as well as his and others’ modern day experiences with them. Interspersed between chapters are quotes, such as this zinger from Zsa Zsa Gabor: “Every woman needs four pets: a mink in her closet, a jaguar in her garage, a tiger in her bed, and a jackass to pay for it all.”
None of the chapters are long – all eighteen fit inside the less than a hundred pages – and the entire book is a fast and easy read. Mattingly entertains, informs, pokes fun at himself and others, and keeps us glad to have been invited to join him. He deftly weaves the spell that causes his writing to become the entire world, everything else having fallen far from our radar. He clearly knows what he’s doing.
Ms. Mattingly, who illustrates this book, knows what she’s doing, as well. Her elegant and lush paintings consistently add the proper touch. It would be a lesser book without this Mattingly’s own assured contributions.
Readers familiar with John C. Mattingly’s writing already know how he fits his tone to each piece. Here, the tone of his tales is like what you’d hear while sittin’ on the hood of the pickup, yakking with a buddy at the end of the day. However, when a chapter is imparting information, his tone is casual and firm.
As mentioned, earlier, Brayed Expectations, is an enjoyable read. I’m certain Mattingly enjoyed writing it. He gives the reader a lot of book for their buck. In these contentious and divisive times, ‘tis a good and needed thing, being reminded of how alike we are, how connected. And few things do as good a job reminding us of our similarities and shared lives as good stories being told well, like these.
Eduardo Rey Brummel continues dealing with the jackasses in his life– himself, most of all.