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BOOK REVIEW S 381 can be gathered from these words in a May 1912 letter to his friend Katherine Hooker: “We must look, it seems, somewhere in the sky for a permanent meet­ ing place. Heavens! What long unblazed trails through starry space friends have to trace to get together. Anyhow let’s be hopeful and grateful for the good antedeath days we have enjoyed” (203). In bringing together and editing previously unpublished journals and corre­ spondence from the years 1911 and 1912, Michael P. Branch has accomplished a heroic work of literary scholarship, providing his readers with an intimate glimpse into a previously neglected period in Muir’s life and work. Although Muir himself was under tremendous pressure from his editor to generate a book about this grand journey, he was for some reason reluctant to proceed, perhaps intuiting that too little time remained for such an endeavor; after all, be did have more pressing matters, including his political activism to save the Hetch Hetchy Valleyfroma dam. At the time ofhis death in 1914, the proposedbook amounted to little more than a talus heap of notes. No wonder subsequent editors of Muir’s manuscripts made no attempt to bring the materials into publishable form. This project had to await a specially gifted sensibility—one possessing an enthusiasm for painstaking archival research, an extraordinary talent for textual editing, and a keen eye for literary organization. Judging from the finished work, I would say it was well worth the wait. John Muir’s LastJourney is a beautifully produced and impeccably edited volume. It considerably deepens our understanding of John Muir, both as a writer and a human being. The River Underground: An Anthology ofNevada Fiction. Ed. Shaun T. Griffin. Reno: University of N evada Press, 2001. 349 pages, $22.00. Reviewed by Richard Hunt Kirkwood Com m unity College, C edar Rapids, Iowa Editor Shaun T. Griffin’s The River Underground brings together a diverse collection offiction by writers with “a solid connection to Nevada” (xx). Griffin has further limited this collection to work published since the 1930s. More important, his choices reflect a Nevada more cosmopolitan than the sagebrush and neon state perceived so often by outsiders. The themes in The River Underground are both universal and particular to Nevada. Primary among them is the quest for identity. Sometimes this search takes the formofa return to the ancestral homeland, as in Hart Wegener’s immi­ grant family seeking to recall its old country roots through memory and story­ telling, and Stephen Shu-ning Liu’s story of a Chinese American youth’s trip to China in search of people who had known his father there. Other times identity is situated closer to home. Monique Laxalt, in an excerpt fromher novel The Deep Blue Memory (1993), presents a powerful multigenerational tale ofa Basque family finding their place in northern Nevada. And Theresa Jordan’s moving “St. Francis of Tobacco” describes the tenuous relation­ 3 8 2 WAL 3 7 .3 F a l l 2 0 0 2 ship between a White woman and a Hispanic man in the context of Nevada’s ranching culture. Other stories in The River Underground examine the wars of the twentieth century. The madness of Vietnam appears in H. Lee Barnes’s remarkable fable “Stonehands and the Tigress.” Richard Wiley shares a tale of moral ambiguity from World War II: in an excerpt from his novel Soldiers in Hiding (1986), two Japanese Americans, stranded in Japan at the start of the war, become prison guards in the Philippines yet are no less at the mercy of a sadistic commandant than are their American charges. The problems of growth and environment, always contentious fares in the Wise Use Movement’s home state, are absent in most of The River Underground. Some characters in the stories do show an appreciation for the natural world, but the ultimate question about growth appears only in Donald Beranati’s “The Excellent House,” in which two erstwhile friends debate the merits ofextending development into fresh territory. As usually happens in the real world, the issue remains unresolved in the story. I came to this anthology with high hopes, based both on...


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pp. 381-382
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