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Reviews 387 Main Street: The Revolt of Carol Kennicott. By Martin Bucco. (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993. 144 pages, $22.95/$7.95.) Martin Bucco’sanalysis ofSinclair Lewis’s 1920 best-seller-turned-classic is a welcome revaluation of a work—and an author—that are returning to literary prominence after a period of relative neglect. When Main Street was published in 1920, Alfred Harcourt hoped for respectable sales. Lewis was then the author of one boys’ book, five modest novels, and a series of popular ifshallow short stories in middlebrow magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post. What Harcourt got instead was a novel that sold out as soon as it arrived in book stores, a book that pleased readers from small-town housewives to H. L. Mencken. Lewis’s reputation declined after he won the Nobel Prize in 1930, and it dropped again with the publication ofMark Schorer’s thorough but derogatory biography in 1961. But Main Street stubbornly remained in print. Now, with its republication in the Library of America series, new readers will discover Lewis and Main Street. Martin Bucco’s study is a good guide to neophytes reading Lewis for the first time. A new generation that knows nothing of small town life or of American life in general during the period before, during, and immediately after World War 1, that knows little of Lewis’s dominant position in the literary world of the 1920s will be well served by this book. But even the devoted student ofLewis will learn much from Bucco’s study. IfHemingwaywas faulted by Gertrude Stein as “smelling of libraries,”Lewis has often been seen as a popular rather than a literary writer. Bucco is careful to point out literary sources and parallels ranging from Dickens and H. G. Wells, whose influence has been pointed out before, to less obvious literary colleagues such as T. S. Eliot. In his attempt to impose order on an admittedly episodic book, Bucco divides the novel into seven sections, to each of which he devotes a chapter— “Prairie Princess,”“Carol D’Arc,”etc.—each having its own theme. While this is a helpful technique, it sometimes seems that more order is imposed on the material than inherently exists. On the whole, however, this is a fine aid for beginner and Lewis enthusiast alike. ROBERT E. FLEMING University ofNew Mexico Montana 1948. By Larry Watson. (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1993. 175 pages, $17.95.) I was reminded, while reading this novel, ofVirginia Woolfscomment that “life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”There is a luminous, elegiac quality to 588 WesternAmerican Literature the first-person narration of David Hayden, now a high-school history teacher, as he recalls events forty years earlier when he was a reticent, socially awkward boy oftwelve in a small town in windswept northeastern Montana, where, “ifthe land had its way, nothing would grow taller than sagebrush and buffalo grass.” The family housekeeper, a Hunkpapa Sioux named Marie Little Soldier, falls ill and then dies under suspicious circumstances. But not before we discover that David’s Uncle Frank—the town doctor and a handsome, deco­ rated war hero, “witty, charming, [and] at smiling ease with his life”—has been sexually molesting Indian women. David’s father, Wes, like his father before him, is the sheriff, though he doesn’t fit the image of a Montanan lawman. He wears brogans and afedora, not boots and a Stetson, and he keeps the respect of the boys in town during the war by fingerprinting them in his office. His gun is a tiny Italian-made .32 automatic that “looked more like a toy than the westernstyle cap guns that had been my toys,”David remembers. Wes arrests his brother Frank, but in an awkward attempt to keep matters quiet he locks him in the basement of their house instead of the townjail. The rest of Watson’s story explores the consequences of that arrest: the moral dilemma of a family torn betweenjustice and loyalty, racism, and family pride. Watson revises a romanticized western past of sunburned individualism. Yet he does so not with postmodern levity...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 387-388
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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