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366 Western American Literature one another as this collection of Kelton’s nonfiction, Elmer Kelton Country, admirably reveals. With a concisely helpful Foreword by Kelton critic Judy Alter, a brief autobiographical Introduction by novelist/journalist Kelton himself, and six main divisions—“Land and Water,”“Plows and Cows,”“Old-timers Remember,” “The Way It Was,” “Rodeo Life,” and “Writing About the West,” this indexed anthology demonstrates cogently why Kelton scholars have praised his fiction’s authenticity shaped by his convincing sense of place, his understated style, and his delightful humor. Kelton country is West Texas, typically a “low-rainfall, sandy, mesquite and greasewood area where livestock have to be a little lone­ some to do well,”a harsh place which a real estate agent described as “sorry as hell, but pretty good.” Yet this locale can be a caring place. Following the incredibly wet year of 1987, a 45-mile-wide grass fire destroyed 298,000 acres, and then strangers hauled in hay for livestock, “asking for nothing but direc­ tions.” Kelton’sunderstated reporting—“His roofat night was the open sky, which leaked, of course”; Ozuna’s 86-year-old Vic Pierce, on a cattle drive to San Angelo in his youth, “slipped into a West Concho dancehall but left through a window when the shooting started. The window was not open at the time”— shows the same kind of indirect style and humor so effective in Kelton’s novels. Including no references to women performers in his rodeo section and critical of some “self-styled environmentalists and historical revisionists,” his reporting of coyotes differs markedly from Richard Shelton’s in Going Back to Bisbee (1992). Kelton credits Rachel Bingham, who cooked for cowboys of the Spur Ranch for thirty-three years, for help in developing his character Lafey Dodge in TheDay the Cowboys Quit. For students ofKelton’sfiction, hisjournalis­ tic pieces often reveal sources for his realistic Westerns, and his capstone selection, “Fiction Writers Are Liars and Thieves,” offers excellent insight into how a writer works. It illustrates well novelist Robert Flynn’s observation: “Fic­ tion is changing the facts to tell the truth.” BOBJ. FRYE Texas Christian University Head Cook at Weddings and Funerals and Other Stories of Doukhobor Life. By Vi Plotnikoff. (Vancouver, British Columbia: Polestar Press, 1994. 206 pages, $14.95.) In 1899 the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy helped sponsor the emigration of Doukhobors to Canada and brought the plight of this pacifist religious sect to world attention. In Canada they remained in the spotlight because of the activities of a radical fringe that resorted to arson, bombings, and nude parades in order to draw attention to their beliefs and demands. Now, nearly a century Reviews 367 later, a descendant of that community has told the story from the point ofview of a young woman growing up a Doukhobor in the Kootenay region of British Columbia. Vi Plotnikoffs Head Cook at Weddings and Funerals is a collection of stories about Ana, a girl attempting to live within two cultures. Many of the stories incorporate materials from Doukhobor history including the “burning ofarms” in 1895 and the great migration of 1899, but what will engage most readers is watching Ana, a young woman in the late 1950s, negotiating that difficult territory where Russian and North American cultures touch each other and sometimes collide. There are familiar stories of the kind where Doukhobor children in Canada are discouraged from speaking their first language, where they feel ashamed of the borsch and sunflower seeds they enjoy, where they are teased, sometimes tormented, by their classmates: “When are you going to bomb the school, Douk?” There are stories where young people who fall in love outside the closely-knit community must forsake personal happiness and where some choose to leave their families and their traditions behind. But there are also sunny, happy stories where community life is its own reward and source of certain happiness. These are remembered sequences from the author’s per­ sonal and cultural history; they are recounted without bitterness and with the artistic simplicity and authenticity that in Canada we associate with the stories of Emily Carr. In this time when we are acutely conscious of ethnicity...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 366-367
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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