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Revieivs 167 Steinbeck’s Unhappy Valley: A Study of The Pastures of Heaven. By Joseph Fontenrose. (Berkeley, Calif.: [Joseph Fontenrose,] 1981. xiv + 50 pages, $6.00.) Initially written for an aborted collection of criticism on short-story cycles, this essay remained in manuscript for nearly ten years before the author published it himself as a handsomely designed and printed pamphlet. Fontenrose lucidly draws convincing thematic and circumstantial parallels among the stories of The Pastures of Heaven, thus disclosing their integral relation to each other and to the work as a whole in terms of theme, conflict, action, and character as well as of the more obvious setting. Nevertheless, despite the additional detail in this essay, it offers little information or insight beyond that in his earlier volume, John Steinbeck: An Introduction and Interpretation (1963), with which all Steinbeck scholars are surely familiar. Its value would have been considerably greater had it appeared in the context for which it was originally intended, with its emphasis on the short-story cycle as genre, rather than in isolation with an appeal now principally to Steinbeck specialists. SANFORD E. MAROVITZ Kent State University The Piñón Pine: A Natural and Cultural History. By Ronald M. Lanner; with a section on Pine-Nut Cookery by Harriette Lanner. (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1981. 208 pages, hardcover $13.50; paperback $8.50.) Ronald Lanner dedicates this engrossing book to a “Numaga of the Paiutes, who knew what a tree was worth.” He wants us to know what Numaga and all Great Basin Indians knew about the value of one common, curious tree: the shrubby, unimposing piñón pine. To a desert backpacker his case is easily made. I’ve walked and camped in those open pine woodlands, taken the tang of the dry resin-scented air, and I love the piñón country. It iseasy to undervalue this landscape, though, simply because there’s so much of it. Piñons, with their companion trees the junipers, form tough sparse woodlands over thousands of square miles of mountains, hills and mesas in the Great Basin, the southern Rockies, and the Colorado Plateau country. Despite his title, Lanner’s subject is really this woodland, this piñonjuniper combination, not the pine alone. And he does very well by it. The writing ranges from adequate to eloquent. Lanner plainly knows his stuff, and often has original information to provide. He likes the things he writes about, and makes us like them, too. There are piñons and piñons: eleven species, including numerous Mexi­ can ones. Lanner focusses, though, on the familiar southwestern types: 168 Western American Literature Colorado piñón (Pinus edulis) and singleleaf piñón (Pinus monophylla), the piñón of the Great Basin. His history of these species, how they spread and evolved, makes especially good reading. One thing the pines developed was a large and highly nutritious nut. Colorado piñón has an oily and very tasty fruit; the singleleaf bears a larger, starchier nut with a conveniently thin shell. Both contain — and here Lanner presents a new analysis — complete proteins, with all essential amino acids present. “The food potential of piñón forests in the Southwest has never been reliably estimated,” he notes, “but it is enormous.” As the Indians knew very well. For the tribes of the Colorado Plateau, piñón nuts were a pleasant dietary supplement; for the Great Basin Indians, on the other hand, the autumn nut harvest meant winter survival. When white explorers came into that stern region, they survived, in some cases, only because Indians gave them piñón nuts. (The Donner Party, Lanner suggests, could have avoided tragedy by stopping to gather nuts in any of several Nevada mountain ranges.) When whites began to settle the Great Basin, they went to the wooded mountains not for food but for fuel; fuel for cooking and heating, and fuel for the smelters in the booming silver towns. By the end of the 19th century, Lanner estimates, 750,000 acres of Nevada woodland had been wiped out. The furnaces at Eureka could consume fifty acres’ worth of charcoal in a single day. Reading this account, one can only be amazed at...


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pp. 167-169
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