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302 Western American Literature shattering skiing mishap, an elopement of sorts, a seduction of sorts, and much more. But into the unfolding present is woven the relevant past, and the complex intermingling of past and present in the onging experience of each character makes for a peculiar mixture of stasis and movement that evokes a remarkable density of experience. We are mad to see every action in the present as outgrowth of much that has gone before to make these people what they are, most particularly the intimate entangling of their lives during the absorbing communal effort that had gone into building the pleasure garden. The plot is too complex for further summary to be fruitful. I must confess that, until I read this novel, I had never heard of Oakley Hall, even though he has four other published works to his credit. He is a Californian who has studied at the Iowa Writers Workshop; he must be added to the growing list of skilled writers who have studied their craft in that school. But more important, Mr. Hall has evidently gone to school to the masters of modern fiction, and profited from their tuition. This book is evidence of his place among the novelists who must be taken in account when evaluating the present state of fiction writing in America. Profesional skill and artistic seriousness are everywhere evident in TH E PLEASURE GARDEN, and one must acknowledge Mr. Hall’s achievement. It is still necessary, however, to suggest that the book falls short in one vital respect. One waits in vain, as one reads, for that sense of enhanced life, of enlarged awareness, of heightened possibility, that is the greatest reward of reading fiction. Mr. Hall addresses himself, as the artist must, to the supreme question, What is it to be a man, to live, to aspire, to suffer? Yet when the answer implicit in these pages is weighed, the reader, let down, may wish to respond, Is this all? One would like the quantity and quality of felt life to be greater. This said, I recommend the book. It is good. It is the work of a skilled and competent craftsman, seriously and responsibly exercising his talent to explore a worthy conception. R o b e r t N a r v eso n , University of Nebraska To Be A Man. By William Decker. (Boston; Little, Brown And Company, 1967. 239 pages, $5.95.) If Andy Adams or Ross Santee were still alive, they would undoubtedly applaud the appearance of William Decker’s first novel, To Be A Man, for Decker, in their tradition, has stripped away the various romantic embellish­ Reviews 303 ments of the mythicized cowboy found in pulp novels, movies, and television and created a true picture of the working cowboy, the breed of man Eugene Rhodes once called “the hired man on horseback.” More important, he has brought this picture up to date, indicating why this particular breed of man and his way of life have all but disappeared in the latter half of the twentieth century. Although his approach is fictional, Decker’s novel, like Adams’ The Log of a Cowboy, is not a full fledged work of the imagination. The pub­ lishers call it a “documentary novel,” as good a term as any for describing the manner used by Decker to examine the way of life exemplified by Roscoe Banks, the novel’s central figure. Essentially this manner consists of a simple, straightforward, third-person narrative, interspersed with passages written from Roscoe’s own point of view, journal-like excerpts which lend personality to Decker’s study of the cowboy’s evolution in the twentieth century. The period covered is from 1892 to 1950, from the last of the open range days, which saw the increasing introduction of the more profitable Hereford cattle, to the modern age of calf tables, hot shots, and jeeps. Span­ ning this period is Roscoe’s life as a working cowhand, a life spent drifting from California to Colorado, from Montana to Texas. Whether he is run­ ning wild horses in Nevada, judging a rodeo, or helping drive cattle out of the brush in the Big Bend...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 302-304
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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