Now You Hear My Horn: The Journals of James Wilson Nichols, 1820–1887 ed. by Catherine W. McDowell, and: M. K. Kellogg’s Texas Journal, 1872 ed. by Llerena Friend, and: Bostonians and Bullion: The Journal of Robert Livermore, 1892–1915 ed. by Gene M. Gressley, and: The Original Journals of Henry Smith Turner: With Stephan Watts Kearny to New Mexico and California, 1846 ed. by Dwight L. Clarke, and: Mary Austin Holley: The Texas Diary, 1835–1838 ed. by J. P. Bryan (review)
- Western American Literature
- The Western Literature Association
- Volume 3, Number 4, Winter 1969
- pp. 313-316
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Reviews 313 Mrs. Bean’s failure to sort her material results in a number of flaws. Her book is crowded with characters, but they are introduced so mechanically and they blend and merge so easily that one is hard-pressed to care about them or to distinguish among them. Dizzying shifts in point of view make it an even more exasperating process for the reader to perceive characters in contexts and relationships. Large chunks of exposition are retailed in impossibly long-winded sections of dialogue that further remove the characters from the reader's concern. And the important themes that inhere in the historical details—criminality and lawlessness versus conscience and community —never have a chance to emerge through the obfuscating procedures of the author. In a day and age when one has come to expect rather high standards of craftsmanship, even from beginning novelists, it is disheartening to find so much that is amateurish in the work of an established writer. One doubts that anyone connected with the publisher, save possibly the Linotype operator, even read through the manuscript. Certainly a conscientious editor would have caught the errors of syntax and diction that mar almost every page. The following paragraph illustrates Mrs. Bean’s typical sins against English prose style, including a pronounced weakness for the dangling modifier and an aversion to the rules of punctuation: Having enlisted in the Army more than twenty years ago and progressing up through the ranks, Carroll’s intuitions often seemed astoundingly formidable to his men, who boasted that they served under a tough officer: Any trooper was a double-damn fool if he thought he could ever pull the wool over Cap’n Carroll’s eyes. Thus, Corporal Robinson was not at all surprised when he was summoned, he had known and with apprehension that there would be an accounting. Such a novel does nothing to serve the cause of western literature. It perpetuates the eastern fallacy that the market for western fiction can be satisfied with badly written and hastily edited repetitions of the stereotypes. Put in enough horses and enough shooting and you have it made. But Time for Outrage even lacks the excitement that the formula can minimally generate. It could, in fact, well stand as a handbook of “don’ts” for the writing of historical fiction. But its major offense is its tediousness, its militant monotony. J ohn S. Bullen, Sonoma State College Now You Hear My Horn: The Journals of James Wilson Nichols, 1820-1887. Edited by Catherine W. McDowell. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967. xxii -f 212 pages, index, §7.50.) 314 Western American Literature M. K. Kellogg’s Texas Journal, 1872. Edited by Llerena Friend. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967. xiv + 183 pages, bibliography, index, $5.00.) Bostonians and Bullion: The Journal of Robert Livermore, 1892-1915. Edited by Gene M. Gressley. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1968. xxxii + 193 pages, $6.95.) The Original Journals of Henry Smith Turner: With Stephan Watts Kearny to New Mexico and California, 1846. Edited by Dwight L. Clarke. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966. xiv -f 173 pages, index, $5.00.) Mary Austin Holley: The Texas Diary, 1835-1838. Edited by J. P. Bryan. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965. 145 pages, index, $4.95.) Does every university press in the West have a basement full of manu scripts of nineteenth-century journals, reminiscences, and narratives? An end less supply of first-hand accounts of major and minor events by major and minor participants? After reading the five books listed above, and noting the flood of such material that has inundated the book world during the last couple of decades, I am ready to believe that such must be the case, and that those who man the presses are willing to publish anything—regardless of whether it is important, readable, or intrinsically interesting—as long as it was written before 1900. I started my assignment willingly enough, but my interest rapidly began to flag. Since one can read only a certain number of journal entries before vertigo sets in, my mind was reeling by the middle of the first volume. I lashed myself to the chair...