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158 Western American Literature Several other problems detract from the value of Perry’s book. He quotes far too much from secondary sources— not only from contemporary reviews but also from books and essays pertinent to subjects tangential to his subject’s life and works. For example, Perry gets sidetracked on minor details in his chapter on London in Japan and Korea; the same is true in his discussions of George Sterling, where he is inclined to emphasize Sterling’s unorthodox activities. More extensive copyediting could have eliminated some jerky narration and culled out the author’s tendency to use too many questions. One wonders too why the book contains no introduction, conclu­ sion, or illustrative material. On other topics, Perry is mistaken. His treatment of London’s tramp activities is muddled, and had he made more extensive use of printed and manuscript correspondence his account of the breakup of London’s first marriage to Bess Maddern, his love affair with Charmian Kittredge, and his subsequent marriage to her could have been less sketchy and jumbled. In short, Perry’s biography is disappointing. Less satisfactory than the earlier accounts by Joan London, Kevin Starr, Richard O’Connor, and Andrew Sinclair that reveal the darker and less positive side of London, it also lacks the careful literary commentary of Earle Labor and James I. McClintock, and it is much less useful than Russ Kingman’s sympathetic but fact-filled pictorial biography. While Jack London was not the god-like paragon that some London aficionados have made of him, neither was he the hardened, insensitive rascal that John Perry portrays in his biography. London and his readers deserve a more balanced portrait than this vol­ ume provides. RICHARD W. ETULAIN University of New Mexico Land of Savagery, Land of Promise: The European Image of the American Frontier in the Nineteenth Century. By Ray Allen Billington. (New York: W. W. Norton &Company, 1981. 364 pages, $18.95.) This impressive piece of research is the last of the many notable contri­ butions of the late Ray Allen Billington to the historical profession. Back in 1973 the American Historical Association asked Billington to prepare a paper on the American frontier for presentation before the International Congress of Historical Societies. With his usual strong sense of duty to his profession, Billington agreed, and settled upon “The World Image of the American Frontier” as the topic. Subsequent experience caused him to reduce the scope of his talk to the dimensions indicated by the present sub­ title: The European Image of the American Frontier in the Nineteenth Century. Reviews 159 Even with this substantial reduction in geography and chronology, the subject was a forbiddingly big and elusive one that could easily have resulted in a superficial treatment. But Billington had already shown, by the way he wrote his big textbook and his magisterial life of Frederick Jackson Turner, that he had an unusual talent for organizing complex projects and for scrutinizing quickly and effectively a mass of evidence turned up by research. Having no particular aptitude for foreign languages, for this new ven­ ture Billington recruited a team of translators, and with the aid of the American Council of Learned Societies enlisted the cooperation of specialists in American history located in such unlikely places as Moscow, Leningrad, Warsaw, Oslo, Hamburg, Leiden, and Budapest, not to mention more familiar centers such as Paris and East Anglia. He found also a surprisingly large number of recent doctoral candidates who had unpublished disserta­ tions on the impact of the American West on one European country or another. This energetically directed international operation produced a multi­ tude of new insights that Billington organized into fourteen well-written chapters that sweep with vigor, color, and humor through the varied impres­ sions of the American frontier that European writers offered their readers in books published all the way from Liverpool to Leningrad. The raw material behind Billington’s comments was a massive assortment of popular novels, travel accounts, promotional pamphlets, and pseudo-scientific essays. The novels proved especially intriguing, for their preposterous episodes, unbeliev­ able heroes, and bizarre scenery were matched by a sales volume that exceeds credulity. Billington asserts that the most famous...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 158-159
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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