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304 Western American Literature A certain nostalgia, a looking backward to a world dominated by positive action rather than introspective self-doubt is evident, but Decker, to his credit, has managed to avoid the idealizatiou which has characterized so many other interpretations of that world. J . W. H u t c h in so n , Colorado State University Flame on the Frontier: Short Stories of Pioneer Women. By Dorothy M. Johnson. (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1967. 141 pages, $3.50.) There is a tendency to divide fiction, particularly short stories, into two groups, the quality or artistic and the popular or commercial. While this division may have some validity as a quick analysis, the exceptions are almost enough to disprove the rule, and it would seem that a discriminating reader ought to be able to find better criteria for deciding what is fit to read and what is a waste of time. Dorothy Johnson is an excellent example of a writer who should not be typed by such a hasty division. Six of the seven stories in the slender volume Flame on the Frontier were first published in large-circulation slick magazines. One can understand why the editor of Collier’s or Argosy would have welcomed the stories. They contain high adventure, they are sentimental, they affirm old values, and they are not so subtle as to be difficult reading. And yet, during the decade when these stories were first published, hundreds of stories with greater pretensions to quality were published, read by a few people, and forgotten; while the stories of Dorothy Johnson seem destined to live indefinitely. Her stories are told in a sparse, economical prose that does not waste much time describing scenery. She passes over months or years in her char­ acters’ lives in a few sentences. But there seems to be a marvelous amount of space for reading between the lines, and the reader is persuaded or even compelled to appreciate more than is explicit. One is inclined at first to say that the stories have a wealth of authentic detail about the western frontier, but it is more accurate to say that this author is a master at finding the pertinent and crucial detail. Her characters are relatively simple, as are their motives, but they live and their acts and feelings are believable. This collection does not include her two best known stories, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and “The Hanging Tree.” All these stories con­ Reviews 305 tain important women characters shown enduring and sometimes prevailing over the privations, danger, violence, and ironies of the west. My favorites of these seven are “Flame on the Frontier” and “Lost Sister,” both dealing with white girls captured by Indians. They seem to me the equal of the better stories of Bret Harte or O. Henry. B e n ja m in C a p p s, Grand Prairie, Texas Great Western Short Stories. Edited by J. Golden Taylor. Introduction by Wallace Stegner. (Palo Alto, California: The American West Publishing Company, 1967. xxv + 572 pages, $11.50.) Jaded by anthologies, the average academician finds it difficult to believe that the world has need for yet another compilation. But here is a volume with its own charisma, a claim I can substantiate from direct observation. I found it difficult, during recent weeks, to keep J. Golden Taylor’s anthology in my own possession. Whenever I placed it on a flat surface—in my office or at home—a colleague or guest would pick it up, and, after brief exam­ ination, proclaim with wild enthusiasm a desire to read it, to borrow it, and (in enough cases to please Professor Taylor and his publisher) to buy it. My own preoccupation with the book prevented my loaning it on half a dozen occasions, and my preoccupation was not generated solely by the physical presence of the book; for I have been awaiting its publication ever since Professor Taylor first described his plan to me three or four years ago. The plan was an eminently sensible one, and the result is a clear tribute to the thoroughness with which Professor Taylor set out to provide a col­ lection...


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