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Reviews 299 The implied judgment may again be too harsh. As an outsider, Mr. Folsom brings to the fore some problems and possibilities which would, probably, otherwise go unnoticed. He also provides a summary background of a reasonable number of Western and near-Western novels, these sum­ maries likely to be quite useful to non-Western readers and college students. J o h n R. M il t o n , University of South Dakota From West to East: Studies in the Literature of the American West. By Robert Edson Lee (Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1966. 172 pages, $5.00.) Everything in the West seems bigger than life: mountains, canyons, even paradoxes. The horns of the Western dilemma are as wide as the longhorn steer’s. It is little wonder, then, that Robert Edson Lee sometimes falls short of the tremendous critical task he faces in From West to East. This is not to say that the book is a failure. It is not. The book begins with a discussion of the movement from East to West. The following chapters deal with journalists Lewis and Clark, novelists Timothy Flint and James Hall, and Easterners Washington Irving and Francis Parkman. Chapter Five deals with an example of the West to East movement, Mark Twain, although by his own definition (“Hannibal was neither in the West nor, in Clemens’ time, on the frontier.”) the movement should have been described as from East to West and back to the East again. The next two chapters are devoted to Willa Cather and Bernard DeVoto. He concludes with a chapter “From West to East.” It is not in the individual chapters devoted to writers that the book falls short. These are rather exceptional analyses in many ways. Lee’s ideas are provocative. Although the reader may frequently disagree with Lee’s conclusions, he is always excited by the ideas. The prose is as energetic and forceful as the subject demands; Lee has chosen a perfect DeVoto-like style for his content. Where the book weakens is in the final chapter, and the reader then unfortunately reflects upon the points made in the earlier chapters. The critical dilemma becomes acute. If the East stands for culture and aesthetics and the West for raw virility and innocence, can the Twain ever meet in a blended artistic Western expression? Lee is so concerned about the emasculation of Twainian style by prudish Eastern influences (He does an 300 Western American Literature admirably convincing job in his analysis of diction.) that he does not probe into the possibility that Eastern aesthetic influences may have aided Twain in other ways. There are shades of DeVoto here, too. The emphasis in the Twain chapter is not so much on thought, as the prefatory quotations would have us expect, but on style and narrative perspective. What calls our attention to the major problem, however, is his statement that “Still, this study has only begun to touch the literature of the West, . . .” And the statement is true. Lee mentions Vardis Fisher’s Tale of Valor as “probably the best fictional treatment of the [Lewis and Clark] expedition.” So much for Fisher. Owen Wister is mentioned twice in glancing references. Frederick Manfred, Frank Waters, Eugene Manlove Rhodes, Ed Abbey, Mary Austin—the list of omissions would be too long—receive not even a glance. There are brief mentions of some moderns, like Eastlake and Graves. Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man Lee dismisses with “No one pretends it is literature.” Lee is honest. “But I cannot end this study without at least mentioning some of the writers omitted, for with them another critic might well reach a different conclusion.” Perhaps Lee himself would have arrived at a different conclusion had he selected different writers. That would make a fine book, and it is clear that Lee has the capability for writing such a book: the intellect, the insight, the energetic style. Lee also suggests the magnitude of Western scholarship in the final pages wh.en he begins to survey the writing that could have been examined. It is understandable, then, that he evidences gaps in scholarship—e.g., “Try to find, for example, how Irving...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 299-300
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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