In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

148 Western American Literature At Northwestern they picked up the beginnings of a new dance, “The Maq,” which was similar to the Watusi, with the primary varia­ tion being the screaming of “Ole Max!” at proper intervals. A mambo, naturally named “the Maximilian Mambo,” was also caught in its formative stages at the University of North Carolina. Lehrer’s triumph is his central character, General Maximilian Rodriguez de Santos, commander of the Nuevo Laredo Garrison. Short and fat, Max, who has risen rapidly in the Army of Mexico, is a sort of Miniver Chavez. But to him comes an opportunity to gain glory for Mexico. Marching a hundred men across the border for a George Washington Birthday parade in Laredo, Max continues on to San Antonio in search of his grail, the deed to the Alamo. With the adroitness of the innocent, Max achieves success after success, each one leading to the discomfiture of someone whose embarrassment we relish. Lehrer’s satire bruises politics, the military, the press, the public relations expert, and the super-patriot. Even the President of the United States, nameless but curiously familiar, makes an appearance or two. Max takes them all in his somewhat waddly stride. Lehrer constructs a denouement that is worthy of the comic entangle­ ment Max precipitates. But the novel’s chief pleasure is afforded not by its happy plot, but by its affirmation of values that seem saner than those pre­ dominating in our society. It is a novel that celebrates “the little people, the ones who have always wanted to make that one big lunge, take that one step forward, but for one reason or another have never gotten around to it.” For this reason, I suspect that Viva Max! will outlive its topical references to become a classic of the comic Western American novel. James Lehrer was well advised to run the risk of departure from the mainstream of today’s fiction. May he sell Max to a sensitive film producer; and may he write more novels J o h n S. B u l l e n , Sonoma State College The Rocky Mountain West in 1867. By Louis L. Simonin. Translated and annotated by Wilson O. Clough. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966. xiv + 1 7 0 pages. Illustrations, notes, appendix, and index. $5.50.) The travels and observations of the urbane and witty French mining engineer Louis L. Simonin present a colorful picture of the West during those hell-bent days of rapid expansion in the post-Civil War period. Simonin recorded his reactions in the form of letters written to friends in France Reviews 149 which describe the geography, cities, and, most importantly, the people of the American frontier. He capitalized on the fascination with which the European regards the Indian by closing nearly every letter (chapter) with the warning that this may be his last day on earth if his party meets a warring band of Indians. This “strong scene” technique of ending each chapter is reminiscent of the serialized novel form, and, if current European interest in the Western American Indian is any indication, the French must have begun each chapter with great anticipation. Simonin commented briefly upon Mormons, “those happy polygamists”; Indians, “the children of the desert”; American genius, which built a railroad to attract people westward; suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who “has overlooked nothing to arrive at her goal”; and the great American system based upon “freedom and work.” He wrestles with the “American Desert” myth and compromises throughout the book by calling the western flatlands the “desert” in one paragraph and the "prairie” in the next. Simonin makes the astute observation that when the buffalo disappears so will the Indian— “the primitive man with the primitive animal.” Yet, despite these acute comments, there is nothing new either in fact or interpretation to be gleaned from the book. The student of mining history will find nothing of value in the engineer’s notations, and important chapters concerning Indian-United States relations have previously been published by the translator. The illustrations are of some value in explicating the text but certainly they are shown to disadvantage by being collected in the center of...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 148-149
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.