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388 WesternAmerican Literature High Sky OverAll: IdahoFiction at the Centennial. Edited by Richard Ardinger and Ford Swetnam. (Pocatello: Idaho State University Press, 1990. 240 pages, $14.95.) Collected here are thirty stories by contemporary writers who have Idaho connections: natives, new-comers, ones who once lived in the state. It’s a lively group of stories which convey a vivid sense of place while focusing on human problems of relationships, growing up, post-sixties survival, religion, Indianwhite relations, work, and old age. There are many Idaho echoes: weather, terrain, flora and fauna, isolation, stubborn stoicism, occupations, dialect—and frequent barroom scenes. The themes, though, are not especially regional; if there’s such a thing as an Idaho ethos, I for one would find it difficult to define from this collection. The editors state that “clarity ofvoice and vision were primary criteria”for selecting stories from the more than 200 submitted, and these tales fulfill that requirement. Possibly as a consequence, there are no natural groupings or dominant themes that emerge. The stories are arranged alphabetically by author. That’s a neat arrangement but does little to promote the sense of a coherent volume. A more extensive introduction could have elaborated effec­ tively on these observations: “Some threads [of Idaho experience] are stronger than others, and some more colorful” and “we hope this book evokes some interest in a rich literary tradition and sheds some light on the vibrant contem­ porary scene.” The stories do reflect the contemporary scene, but do not by themselves convey the sense of a literary tradition. If there is one overriding subject that unites many of these tales, it is a concern for family; a majority of the stories deal with relationships between siblings, parents and children, husband and wife (or would-be unions, or fractured, terminated bonds). What one doesn’t find is a sense of history beyond one's family’s (usually the immediate family). Only two of the stories are set in an earlier era—the 1870s; even family connections rarely extend beyond parents and possibly grandparents. Is this simply because the writers have no personal generational ties that go back veryfar (Idaho’swhite culture is relatively recent), or is it the form of contemporary short stories that discour­ ages explorations of the past, or is it simply a reflection of Americans’ absorp­ tion in the present moment and contemporary issues? Turning that query into a positive assessment, I note that these writers are certainly not struggling to overcome the confines of a mythic Old West: they are free from horse opera expectations, though a few find ways to play some fascinating variations on mythic strains. They are not self-consciously “western,” and that is probably a good thing. Readers looking for an overview of Idaho’s fiction through a hundred years ofstatehood won’t find it in these pages. Those interested in a good read will enjoy the book, and some of these stories will grip Reviews 389 your heart and extend your imagination. The editors present this collection “to celebrate the work of some talented writers whose contributions . . . are representative of . . . ‘The Idaho Renaissance’.” There is a recent burst of literary creativity in Idaho, and this collection gives an excellent sampling of it. BARBARA H. MELDRUM University ofIdaho CriticalApproaches to theFiction ofMargaret Laurence. Edited by Colin Nicholson. (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1990. 250 pages, $27.95.) Colin Nicholson’s collection of essays offers a variety of approaches to Margaret Laurence’s works, and places her firmly in the literary tradition of North American Culture, for her writing explores the development ofselfhood, an enduring theme in Canadian and American literature. But, at the same time, Laurence is shown to be thoroughly Canadian and thoroughly feminist. She can occupy all three traditions because they share a common theme: the struggle toward self-growth. Nicholson’s edition offers a thorough grounding in the fiction of Margaret Laurence; each of her Manawaka novels is explored around the theme ofidentity. The contributors, taken together, show Laurence’snovels progressing toward characters who more and more boldly create their own identities. David Richards provides a starting point in discussing how Laurence’s African novels fail, but...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 388-389
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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