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Reviews 69 Restless Strangers: 'Nevada’s Immigrants and Their Interpreters. By William S. Shepperson. (Reno: University of Nevada Press, xiv + 287 pages, illus., $7.00.) Restless Strangers is very confusing. Wilbur S. Shepperson has taken “foreigners in Nevada” for his subject. Handling them, or it, he has moved from a “historical and statistical survey” to a “sum­ mary . . . of 522 personal interviews,” to “ the literary man’s view of the immigrant,” to the reportage of early journalists, to “the place of the immigrant in fiction, reminiscence, and other popular literature,” a category that seems to mean “books.” One naturally finds a wild overlapping of sections. T o be properly handled, more­ over, these disparate enterprises would require some mastery of the techniques and special language of a half-dozen academic dis­ ciplines. Shepperson is not master of so many. Rigorous experience in any kind of scholarship would have helped Shepperson organize, as well as limit, his areas of concern. Lacking this advantage, he attempts to apply single systems of in­ quiry over stunningly discordant fields. In our free country, a man cannot be prevented from jamming a Chineese coolie, a Jewish peddler, a German mining engineer, and an English lordling who buys whole ranches, into the same sociological tote machine, or from asking each whether he made money in Nevada and how the community has accepted him. But the results will not mean any­ thing unless sensitively analyzed and refined, and Shepperson does not do this. A literate reader will also be troubled by Shepperson’s English. Independent grammar and sleepwalking style are happily familiar in Western books. But what is to be said of this very first sentence: “The commanding importance of American immigration has gen­ erally been recognised” (p. ix)? Were a lot of dollars really in the kitty when lucky Madame Foo “became the wealthiest Chinese in Winnemucca” (p. 109)? And listen here. If C Street in Virginia City boasted “a storeroom for one English peddler and two Austrian hucksters” (p. 28), how many storerooms did it boast, and how many peddlers? Shepperson dislikes direct quotation, but his peri­ phrasis into this kind of English does not improve the good passages he takes out of books and old newspapers. Where there is such variety, however, any reader can find much to like. Nevada history is an Ali Baba cave into which whole treasuries of glittering experience have been hustled; and despite its other claims, Restless Strangers is mostly history. My own favor­ 70 Western American Literature ite running accounts are those of the industrial wars fought and lost by Italian charcoal-burners at the smelters around Eureka, and the nationalistic silliness of German Nevadans and French Nevadans at the time of the Franco-Prussian war. A single ex­ ample of the work of Louis Monaco, a youthful Italian photogra­ pher who also was the main spokesman of the charcoal burners, makes me wish that somebody around Reno would get together an album of his pictures. Misshapen as it is, the book is a necessary purchase for all li­ braries of the West, and will undoubtedly serve as a point of de­ parture for other and more elegant studies. It contains very inter­ esting old photographs, some apparently printed for the first time. Many people will make good use of its very extensive bibliography of Nevadiana. Though it is badly produced, with an amateurish physical design and many misprints, it is reasonably priced, and when all is said it is a book worth having. Robert Brainard Pearsall, University of Ruhr, Bochum, Germany The San Francisco Earthquake. By Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts. (New York: Stein and Day Publishers, 1971. 316 pages, biblio., appendix index. $7.95.) Despite the legion of books published on it, the great San Fran­ cisco earthquake and fire of 1906 continues as both an interesting subject and a bonanza for publishers. It transcends popular move­ ment for it can be approached from any angle; a spate of recent volumes has used the horror of 1906 as a matrix for predicting future disaster, and has jibed well with the growing turn toward the occult. This is true because the destruction of a major city...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 69-70
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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