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Book Review s 3 6 7 changed in profound ways between the 1880s and early 1930s. This scholarly edition of Obscure Destinies provides an accurate critical text, a historical essay for biographical detail and context, copious explana­ tory notes, a textual commentary, and a historical collation recording changes in the book’s different editions. It enables readers to trace Cather’s thorough and subtle revision process and to appreciate the author’s preoc­ cupation with the appearance and “feel” of the completed book. Having of late used a cheap paperback edition of O Pioneers! for teaching purposes, I must say it is a great physical pleasure to read Cather in her preferred for­ mat of heavy textured paper, large dark type, and wide margins. Beyond this, though, the format of the scholarly edition encourages slow and measured reading. The explanatory notes provide commentary on details and allu­ sions within the text that enrich the readers’ experience of the stories. Speaking personally, until reading this edition I was not aware of what “shingled” hair looked like, and as an Englishman I was a little embarrassed to realize I had little idea of when or why the Embankment was built along the River Thames! These allusions in “Neighbour Rosicky” to Polly’s “modern” appearance and the rationalization of urban space in Victorian London suggest that Cather brought a keen-eyed and cosmopolitan approach to her Great Plains fiction, despite the complaints of some critics in her own time, especially so during the depression, that her writing was politically conservative, parochial, and elitist. As today’s readers continue to debate such charges, undoubtedly they will turn increasingly to the scholarly editions of Cather’s works to make their points. Jack London: A Study of the Short Fiction. By Jeanne Campbell Reesman. N ew York: Twayne 1999. 277 pages, $29.00. Reviewed by Tony Williams Southern Illinois U niversity at C arbondale Jeanne Reesman’s work aims at analyzing the prolific short fiction of Jack London. The book is comprised of three parts. The first is Reesman’s examination of London’s Klondike, social realism, experimental fiction, and Pacific tales, while the other sections duplicate extracts from London’s writ­ ing and from selected critical commentaries by other scholars. Although London’s short fiction certainly deserves detailed critical study, this work does not provide a substantial analysis. Rather than thoroughly examining stories comprising three huge volumes in the Stanford University Press edi­ tion, Reesman herself has peculiarly written only 197 pages out of a 277page book. Furthermore, rather than employing recent and relevant critical WAL 3 4 .3 F a l l 1999 methodologies involving cultural studies, historicism, dialogism, and dis­ course theory, this book employs an old-fashioned approach emphasizing classical and mythological elements curiously at odds with the modernity of cutting-edge Jack London scholarship. Like her critical mentor, Earle Labor, Reesman adopts a conservative and traditional approach to an area of west­ ern American literary scholarship demanding more relevant critical methodologies. From the very opening page where Reesman views London’s first pub­ lished tale, “Story of a Typhoon off the Coast of Japan,” as exhibiting “a sense of the mythic dimensions of universal human experience,” readers immediately know what they are in for (3). The author desperately applies “Greek virtues of comradeship, bravery, and humility,” Homer, and Sol imagery to London’s more complex geographical environments (14). Although grudgingly recognizing London’s socialism, the author rarely misses the opportunity to make a cheap remark against London’s sincere convictions. In “The Dream of Debs,” London concludes by warning about Fascist reaction with the line, “Something must be done.” Reesman replies, “Strike by the rich, perhaps?” (85). She also ignores the whole poignant social message behind “A Piece of Steak” by commenting that the aging fighter Bill “could have escaped the ‘game’ of exploitation” if he had expe­ rienced an “epiphany” like young Johnny in “The Apostate” (89). The now critically disproved Jungian fallacy is again wheeled out to argue for London’s transcendental vision during his last years. Many key alternative critical voices are either merely footnoted without analytic comment, such as Christopher Gair on “South of the Slot,” or...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 367-368
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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