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94 Western American Literature If that happens, then perhaps, both the Anglo and Chicano authors can overcome their propensity of writing about each other stereotypically and get down to the harder job of writing about each other, and themselves, as they are — in all their rich complexity. Mexico and the Hispanic Southwest in American Literature is a book which should be read by every person wishing to gain a better understanding of the “American” Southwest. There is no better introduction to the subject for the beginner, no better guide for the one seeking specialization in the subject, and no better challenge for the one seeking to begin from where Cecil Robinson left off. RUDOLPH GOMEZ The University of Texas at El Paso Fig Tree John: An Indian in Fact and Fiction. By Peter G. Beidler. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1977. 130 pages, $10.50 cloth, $4.95 paper.) Edwin Corle’s 1935 novel, Fig Tree John (currently available in paper from Pocket Books, 95^), has been both praised and damned. Why it should be praised remains a mystery even after reading Peter G. Beidler’s exploration, though Beidler is able to disregard his own evidence and to conclude with praise for the novel’s authenticity and literary quality. Part one of Beidler’s book, “Fig Tree John in Fact,” documents the life of the historical Fig Tree John who was the inspiration for Gorle’s novel. Included are maps, photographs, journal excerpts, correspondence (includ­ ing more government and railroad correspondence about Fig Tree John’s land than was probably necessary), contemporary newspaper and magazine accounts, and other documentation. Though there are some problems of repetition — we are told three times that Fig Tree John’s birthdate of 1839 is based on speculation, twice that a traveller questioned the parentage of children in John’s camp, twice that John went gold-hunting (unsuccessfully) with a white woman settler, and twice about John’s rescue of two great­ grandchildren of Ulysses S. Grant — Beidler has done his research carefully, and he presents a convincing picture. The historical Fig Tree John was a Cahuilla Indian, a leader among his own people, who lived on his ancestral lands in southern California and was regarded by local whites as a trouble­ maker for attempting to hold on to those lands (importantly, not through violence, but by hiring a lawyer). The historical Fig Tree John appears to have been an interesting, complex, highly adaptable man, in direct contrast to the Fig Tree John Corle presented in the novel. Reviews 95 Part two of Beidler’s book, “Fig Tree John in Fiction,” details the many changes Corle made in the character of Fig Tree John as he appears in the novel. Corle made John an Apache, a stranger and as much an interloper on the land as the whites who quickly settled around him, and an isolated man unable to adapt to change of any sort. Further, Corle supplied the novel with a sensational plot in which Fig Tree John’s wife is raped and murdered by a white “gangster,” following which John dedicates himself to waiting for an opportunity for revenge. He takes that revenge years later by raping and attempting to murder his son’s Mexican wife, only to be murdered himself by the son. Beidler discusses the reasons for these changes (one of which was Corle’s limited knowledge of the actual Fig Tree John’s life). He also discusses Corle’s use of anthropological material, making a good case for Corle’s authenticity in matters of daily Apache or Cahuilla life and for his fabrication of major matters essential to the novel’s theme. Two of the most blatant fabrications are John’s lament that his son’s adolescence ceremony cannot end (because of their isolation) with the ceremonial pursuit and deflowering of virgins of his own age, and John’s later insistence on his right as an Apache to share his son’s wife. Beidler finds all of the above justifiable, and praises Fig Tree John as “a remarkably good novel.” The key to this justification and praise is found in Beidler’s Introduction: For one, successful fiction demanded— at least...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 95-96
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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