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232 Western American Literature It is significant that Professor Folsom considers Flint’s book on Boone, which is a chronicle, important enough to reprint. The question of whether Flint is an important literary figure or merely a minor writer, a part of the history of American letters, is continually in the background in Professor Folsom’s book. Although he insists that his purpose is not to give Flint credit for more than he deserves, Professor Folsom seems to be trying to establish Flint as more than just a minor writer. Time will tell whether or not he has succeeded. Q r l a n S a w e y , Pan American College The Woman at Otowi Crossing. By Frank Waters. (Denver: Alan Swallow, 1966. 300 pages, $4.95.) Frank Water’s latest novel is reassuringly familiar, yet pleasantly unusual — its local history and metaphysical truth skillfully developed through opposition and resolution. As in his classic Man Who Killed the Deer and People of the Valley, this novel symbolizes the 20th-century hostility between shiny science and hoary religion; but this time Waters focuses the conflicts — analysis vs. vision, logic vs. intuition, intellect vs. emotion — not on Indian or SpanishAmerican protagonists, but on four Anglo-Americans: the heroine-mystec Helen Chalmers, middle-aged owner of the symbolic crossroads tearoom below Los Alamos —Forbidden City of Atomic Research; the semi-romantic Jack Turner, a blunt Western newspaperman and Helen’s lover-turned-friend; the arrogantly intellectual Emily, Helen’s abandoned daughter, seeking a mother but finding a substitute —a Ph.D. in anthropology; and Dr. Edmund Gaylord, who loves Emily but gleans from Emily’s mother that Subject plus Object equals One. Among the several “primitives,” the ancient Pueblo cacique Facundo assumes the key role as Helen’s spiritual guide. Against these, Waters juxtaposes an array of minor characters, such as Mr. and Mrs. Cyril Throckmorton III, caric­ atures of Eastern wealth hell-bent on Western exploitation. As mythographer, Waters dramatizes the Emergence of Helen Chalmers after her discovery of a small lump near her breast throws her life into new perspective. The four parts of the novel correspond to the four stages of the mystical way: Awakening, Purgation, Illumination, and Unification. Like a female St. Francis, Helen’s empathy for pine, rock, fauna, and star strengthens her own character and personality. An attractive woman, she purges herself of restricted sexual love, however, and ascetically embraces the universe, reads the outer world via the inner, and the manufactured with the natural. Persons from different cultures and stations come to feel her extraordinary power (in­ cluding an F.B.I. man who discerns that her Illumination coincides with the Top Secret experiment in tightly-guarded Los Alamos). Although Helen’s Reviews 233 ecstatic trances and terrifying visions set her apart, she remains convincingly human in her simple tearoom and in her print dresses and moccasins. More than in any of his other novels, Waters here relies on many kinds of fictional rhetoric. Instead of illustrating “Indian Time” or “Circular Time” as in The Man Who Killed the Deer (through repetition), The Woman at Otowi Crossing exhibits much counterpoint of viewpoints, characters, events, modes of representation, and places. Without outraging narrational logic, for example, the reader on the linear time-track is hurled precipitously and frequently into a brief future-present: someone —a psychoanalyst, a bookdealer, a philanthrop­ ist — reveals to a self-effacing inquirer a professional attitude toward the woman at Otowi Crossing —and then the reader is swept back into past-present at the point where futuristic recall ends. On the linear time-track again, the reader is heir to ironic silence counterpointing other instances where Waters’ “second self” reveals his controlled but passionate involvement. Mingling with invented characters who represent various “positions” are such historical figures as Oppenheimer, Fermi, and Bor. Like gods down from Mount Olympus, the new dieties of science dine in Helen’s tearoom and discuss the virtues of chile in the esoteric terms and double entendres of nuclear fission —a foil to Helens own esoteric psychic fission. Wise to the history of The Hill, the reader foresees the release of atomic energy, but Waters maintains suspense by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 232-233
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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