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78 Western American Literature thing together as a novel. Seelye seems to have gotten his “Code of the West” from Waterhole No. 3 along with his monte game. The dust jacket calls it a “mocking magical mystery play,” but it reads more like a maudlin mawkish melodrama. E r n e st L. B u lo w , University of Utah The Light of Common Day. Realism in American Fiction. By Edwin H. Cady. (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1971. 224 pages. $7.50.) Some critical works aim at being so “adventurous” that one asks, “Is he talking about the same book that I read?” Though Mr. Cady calls his a “minority view,” he has culled the critical compost heap so carefully, he has treated the language of the text so conscientiously that one is grateful to follow" his analysis of a shared reading experience. The interconnected essays in “ Thr. Light of Common Day offer a clear, workable definition of realism; distin­ guish between “Three Sensibilities: Romancer, Realist, Naturalist;” challenge the view of American fiction that sees it as esssntially romantic; evaluate the critical treatment of Hawthorne from 1964 to 1900; and discuss “The Howells Nobody Knows.” Western readers will find that Cady’s assessments of Twain, Crane, and Wister tellingly illuminate some of the strengths and weaknesses in our literature. “Huckleberry Finn by Common Day” shows that the often-criticized end­ ing of Twain’s novel is actually consistent with his blend of picaresque and boy-book traditions: “The picaresque tones of farce and absurdity made any­ thing possible. And the boy-book did not formally climax.” The section on the American boy-book is indispensable for those who wish to understand Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn as Twain did. We can also profit from “Howells and Crane: Violence, Decorum and Reality,” which explains how violence is undercut in their works: “They share the sense that violence must never stand alone as if it were an ultimate.” In contrast to their decorum, Wister’s description of the Vir­ ginian smashing Balaam to a pulp “is the prototypical scene of neoromantic violence: a godlike hero meting justice with irresistible force, irresistible vio­ lence without reflex upon him, with no consequence for him.” The discussion of Wister’s “romanticistic effectism” is expanded in an essay on The Virginian. Cady says the Virginian “is a creation endlessly interesting, and he lives.” What a pity Wister had really no notion what to do with his Virginian. Molly Stark Wood, the schoolmarm from the East, seemed to answer his problem: the Virginian could woo and win her. The way in which he wins her shows how thoroughly Wister had swallowed the “ tooth and Reviews 79 claw” version of Social Darwinism. The cowboy’s wild masculinity succeeds in cracking “the shell of dead puritanism around her (Molly’s) femininity.” But by introducing Molly, Wister sacrificed the book’s esthetic integrities. “To dvelop her and her part in the novel, Wister had to switch from that sensitive register’s point of view whidi brought him all his success to a smear and naive omniscient-narrator’s point of view.” Cady also points out Wister’s affirma­ tion of the entrepreneurial forces that have created our ecological crisis. The essay’s conclusion spells out the full implications of the novel’s neoromanticism: The Leatherstocking and the Virginian live on in their books. Is it their fault, or their authors’, or ours that, essentialized to pure vul­ garity, they have provided a grist, endlessly regrindable like the dust of the moon, for the mills of the entertainment industry? Cady’s views, whether or not they gain complete assent, reintroduce “re­ sponsible criticism” that is contextual, coherent, complete, and comparative. J a m e s H . M a g u ir e , Boise State College ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 78-79
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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