Ship Rock. A Place — From “Women and Men,” a Novel in Progress
by Joseph McElroy
Ship Rock becomes a point of narrative meditation in this selection published almost seven years before Women and Men appeared. The great volcanic "neck" rising hundreds of feet up off a barren plateau in north-west New Mexico evokes its Indian legends, but more complexly it gathers to itself other visions, notably by contrast to the man-made power plant visible some thirty miles away whose plumes the Gemini astronauts saw from space. And at the shared center of this fiction stands the consciousness of a man who is neither geologist nor Native American nor capitalist turning strip-mined coal into natural gas. From his own distance and uncertainty he is trying to have this alien yet familiar place for himself and take it to himself as, the reader suspects, he tries to put his life together again.
In January of 1980, when submitting the manuscript for publication, the author wrote the publisher, William B. Ewert, "I would particularly like to see ‘Ship Rock’ as a small book because of a strange contemplative independence it has for me."