- The Bradbury Chronicles; Harlan Ellison, Unrepentant Harlequin; Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in His Own Land by George Edgar Slusser, and John D. MacDonald and the Colorful World of Travis McGee by Frank D. Campbell, Jr. (review)
- Western American Literature
- University of Nebraska Press
- Volume 13, Number 1, Spring 1978
- pp. 99-101
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Reviews 99 Indian dances as authentically as possible. They are complimented by tradition-minded Indians for their accuracy. The book begins with an historical survey of explorers’ and travelers’ descriptions of dances. These are expectably colored by the European perceptual set, yet on occasion sympathetic and insightful. Then follows an encyclopedic exposition, some three hundred large-format pages long, of Indian instruments, songs, and dances, with full descriptions, in most cases, of just how the dances are performed and why. There are a number of good photographs and drawings. The focus is on the Plains tribes, whose dances the authors have performed most often, and the southwestern, coastal, and far-northern people get comparatively brief treatment. Yet there is much that is universal in motivation and philosophy. The Laubins pay attention to this inner aspect, although there is a certain reticence in interpretation. “Indian dance, like any other true dance, is not merely a matter of motion and exercise, of moving feet and body, but must be accompanied by thought and emotion. It expresses emotional and spiritual needs even more than physical. We don’t think these things can be taught. They must be felt and experienced.” In some respects, then, the book stops short. It is different from and would make a good complement to, for example, Masked Gods. If you were reading The Man Who Killed the Deer, for another example, and wanted to know what a water drum sounds like, and how it is made and played, and how far its penetrating, vibratory sound might carry, you could find out in the Laubins’ chapter on instruments. This is an inside book with a practical bent. THOMAS J. LYON, Utah State University The Bradbury Chronicles; Harlan Ellison, Unrepentant Harlequin; Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in His Own Land. By George Edgar Slusser. John D. MacDonald and the Colorful World of Travis McGee. By Frank D. Campbell, Jr. (San Bernardino: The Borgo Press, 1977. $1.95 each.) Popular culture, long snubbed by academicians, is finally coming into its own. American Studies programs and Bowling Green University’s Popular Culture Center recognize that the prevailing taste of the people, while often less than high art, may be more indicative of the values of an era than is the avant-garde. Scholars are also conceding that much of it is fun and that their adolescent tastes can be justified instead of apologized for as artistic slumming. Under pressure from students, colleges are now offering courses in science fiction and fantasy, detective fiction, Western literature, and other genres once dismissed as subliterary. But very little scholarship 100 Western American Literature has been done about most writers in these genres, and so the Borgo Press’s Milford Series, Popular Writers of Today, is a useful contribution. So far, most of the 64-page pamphlets deal with science fiction. Three of the best are by Dr. George Edgar Slusser on Bradbury, Ellison, and Heinlein. A Ph.D. in literature, Slusser does not write down to his audience; if anything, he writes at too high a level of abstraction, but his prose is polished and his insights perceptive and sophisticated. The Bradbury Chronicles is the best in-depth commentary on Ray Bradbury to date. Too often, teachers assign Bradbury merely as preparation for more serious literature to follow; he has never been included in surveys of American literature. But Slusser finds Bradbury’s fantasies in the mainstream, with antecedents in Hawthorne, Poe, Whitman, O. Henry, Porter, and Steinbeck. He considers Bradbury not really a speculative writer envisioning new Utopian societies but a seeker for a lost Eden in the supposed innocence of the small towns of his Midwestern boyhood. Despite his sinister tales of terror and his occasionally outraged social criticism, Bradbury has no real vision of evil. His horror is a Hallowe’en game; and despite his allegiance to Poe, he has become increasingly a transcendental optimist in the spirit of Whitman, which may explain the absence of the mystery of iniquity in his screenplay of Moby Dick. Despite racism, ecological sacrilege, and the destruction of the earth itself in The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury’s people are essentially innocent, blundering and blind rather than evil...