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78 Western American Literature Slade’s Glacier. By Robert F. Jones. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981. 205 pages, $10.95.) Robert F. Jones’s Alaska, in his latest novel, Slade’s Glacier, is a country of the big gesture, indeed sometimes the final gesture. It is a vast playground for the very rich, such as an ex-Savak official who comes to capture the “grand slam” in his pursuit of the Dali sheep. Most of all, it is a captivatingly beautiful country being raped by the technologists and the federal govern­ ment, leaving people who love it for its own sake, frequently with mystic awe, willing to fight to the bitter end to preserve it. Slade’s Glacier is about two World War II buddies, Jack Slade and Sam Healey, who become bush pilots out of Gurry Bay, Alaska. On their way to Fairbanks with cargo, which includes a wolverine, they are forced down because the “carcajou” has begun to eat up their fuselage. They land on a glacier, and before they leave, Healey, the villain in the novel, discovers oil there. They split up when Grainey Olds forces Healey into a fight for running around with his wife, a blond bombshell named Marie. Healey kills Grainey with a .357 Mag Colt he earlier hid in a fish barrel. He is subsequently taken to Juneau where he eventually gains acquittal, though not before sell­ ing his soul to rich man, Jep Morgan. While Healey is in Juneau, Jack Slade decides to spend the winter on the glacier. He is accompanied there by Josey, an ex-school-teacher from California. They consummate their love in the late-summer waters of the Alugiak. When Healey returns, he is determined to get the oil. Meanwhile, Jep Morgan sets up Slade with a hunting lodge, with the ulterior motives of drilling the oil when the price is right (the time is 1950), and for the next thirty years Slade, his wife Josey, and their son Dude prosper, guide rich hunters to their prey, and learn to live in harmony with the pristine beauty of Alaska. Slade’s Glacier is clearly in the American grain. Jack Slade’s ancestry goes all the way back to Natty Bumppo and Chingachgook (it is Charlie Blue, a native, who introduces Jack and Josey to the underworld of the glacier), on up through Huckleberry Finn. Nick Adams, and The Bear, Slade’s favorite book. Slade’s Glacier is a story of the American Adam pushed all the way, by 1980, to a glacier in Alaska. There Slade fights off the machine, driven by Healey and his friends, invading the wonderful garden. The glacier itself builds gradually into a huge, complex symbol, somewhat reminiscent of the great white whale, but this time Slade is riding it, and he, like Ahab, takes a lot of men with him. In Jones’s novel, the American myth is alive and well. JOHN MAGEE, Ohio Northern University ...

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Additional Information

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