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Reviews 107 raphy pertinent to the art and life of the Alaskan Eskimo which was mostly selected from the literature of the field of anthropology including archae­ ological reports, ethnographic accounts, and recent publications on Eskimo change and adaptation. The last page lists 51 museums in the U.S., Canada, and Europe that have important Eskimo collections. Survival is therefore a valuable book for students of Eskimo art and culture. I do wonder, however, how long it’s going to take for the American public to discard that questionable word Eskimo for the proper word Inuit. The only other thing that bothered me about Survival was the blood and guts seal butchering splash on the back cover. What did it have to do with the book unless depicting that survival is warm liver as well as canned muktak? That’s about as subtle as a large hammer. In my opinion, there is no question of the survival of Inuit art and culture. In Lawrence Ahvakana’s words: “We’re not a dying race, we’re not a dying people. I think we can run our own lives. The language is a lot stronger now. Our dance is living and reliving and is being relearned.” Survival assured. JIM GREEN, University of the North, Fort Smith, N.W.T. Crinoline to Calico. By Nan Heacock. (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1977. xi + 242 pages, $7.95.) Pioneering has been a favorite subject of novelists since long before the process itself had ended. When combined with the theme of an eastern woman brought west by her husband, only to be repelled by the country and its inhabitants, it would seem to have an irresistible appeal. In Crinoline to Calico Nan Heacock has attempted, with only partial success, to exploit the potentialities of these themes as they are embodied in the frontier experiences of Jonathan and Castle Gayle, characters modeled, we are told, on the foster-parents of the author’s mother. Jilted at the altar, Castle emerges from an eleven-year sulk to propose marriage to a man who dances with her at the first ball she attends after her return to the world. But marrying Jonathan Gayle means leaving her secure place in a wealthy Pittsburgh family and becoming a frontier wife in south­ western Iowa in the 1850s — a metamorphosis she refuses to accept. She expects to go back some day and repeatedly threatens to leave her husband but each time is deterred by some neighborhood responsibility. For no matter how dissastisfied she is in the West, no matter how she makes Jonathan pay for having brought her there, she earns the reputation of the local angel of mercy, to be called upon in illness and childbirth. Only after 108 Western American Literature the important members of her family are dead does she resign herself to staying in Iowa, now (1870) a relatively civilized place. The author’s use of actual people and incidents in her novel only illustrates the truism that fact is not only stranger than fiction but often quite unsuitable as the substance of fiction. Castle’s prototype may have been unable to read or write, but such an astonishing omission in the heroine’s upbringing strains the reader’s credulity in the novel. Likewise, Jonathan’s infallible practical wisdom, however it may square with the facts, seems unconvincing in the book. This failure to create believable characters weakens a novel not without its merits. As a factual account of pioneering it is superior to such predeces­ sors as the works of Bess Streeter Aldrich and Rose Wilder Lane, and it avoids the sentimentality that marks those novels. In such surface matters as the speech, dress, manners, amusements, and values of pioneer people, the book gives an impression of studied accuracy. But these evidences of careful research and imaginative recreation of the past do not compensate for inadequate characterization. By the fictional standards of forty or fifty years ago, Crinoline to Calico would rank as a successful, if not outstanding, novel of farm life. By today’s more rigorous standards it can satisfy only rather unsophisticated tastes. Readers whose willing suspension of disbelief allows them to overlook its...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 107-108
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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