Enos Mills by Peter Wild, and Gary Snyder by Bert Almon, and Charles Marion Russell by Robert L. Gale, and Jack Kerouac by Harry Russell Huebel, and C. L. Sonnichsen by Joyce Gibson Roach (review)
- Western American Literature
- The Western Literature Association
- Volume 17, Number 2, Summer 1982
- pp. 173-176
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Reviews 173 3-8). Equally disconcerting are “writers content . . . with making contribu tions to history” but who have abandoned its poetry and thus fail to make “you feel” (p. 17 ). The most autobiographical chapters (3 and 6) make a case for the loosening of academic discipline and for an escape from current fads that tend to debunk the figures of history and indeed the very wisdom of being concerned with the past itself. The essential loneliness of Sonnichsen ’s quest for the “forest” of human meaning in academia’s security-seeking wilderness of “trees and sometimes only a branch or a leaf” is apparent in his choice of the term “the poor wayfaring scholar” (p. 26). Yet the desira bility of this position is apparent: “He has no fixed academic home and is not obliged to stay in his discipline. He can cover the entire range of subject matter as other scholars could hardly do. His homelessness gives him a very special advantage” (p. 26). Other chapters deal with specifics, including relations between “unanointed chroniclers” (p. 8) and their publishers, the pitfalls of producing books, the need to get “historic objects” or documents past the years when they are “just old-fashioned junk” (p. 78), problems of small research libraries and the “fine art of plagiarism” (pp. 98-101). Done with grace, humor, and a common touch, Ambidextrous Historian is both a delight and a serious monument, a marker on the trail of one who has ranged widely and seen well. CHARLES S. PETERSON, Utah State University Enos Mills. By Peter Wild. (Boise: Western Writers Series No. 36, 1979. 47 pages, $2.00.) Gary Snyder. By Bert Almon. (Boise: Western Writers Series No. 37, 1979. 47 pages, $2.00.) Charles Marion Russell. By Robert L. Gale. (Boise: Western Writers Series No. 38, 1979. 48 pages, $2.00.) Jack Kerouac. By Harry Russell Huebel. (Boise: Western Writers Series No. 39, 1979. 48 pages, $2.00.) C. L. Sonnichsen. By Joyce Gibson Roach. (Boise: Western Writer Series No. 40, 1979. 48 pages, $2.00.) The subjects of the Boise Writers Series pamphlets 36 through 40 are quite diverse. Two of the five are writers of belles-lettres, Kerouac and Snyder; two are conservationists, Mills and Sonnichsen; one is a painter, Russell. Such variety reminds us once again that there are myriad ways of perceiving the American West. Before turning to content, a word should be said about the physical quality of these publications. It is excellent. They are attractive and well- 174 Western American Literature made with sharp, clear printing on good paper. They are produced by the Caxton Printers of Caldwell, Idaho, a firm ever known for superior crafts manship. The artwork deserves special praise. The cover designs by Arny Skov nicely capture the spirit of the contents, and, through different colored inks and drawing styles, create agreeable variety in what might have been dull uniformity. All in all, the Boise Series pamphlets, now about fifty in number, are not only useful and enlightening but handsome as well. The two best books in this batch are the ones on the most recent of the figures represented and probably the best known as writers: Kerouac and Snyder. And since they are widely considered to be the twin prophets of the San Francisco counterculture movement of the 1950s, it is appropriate that the Boise Series issue pamphlets on them at the same time. To want to dismiss Jack Kerouac as a legitimate western writer is tempting. Essentially an East Coast city man, he spent not much time in the West and apparently had little feeling for the beauty and power of its spacious landscape. But he did respond to and become an active participant in the tumultuous action common to the urban oases of California, and eventually he became one of the significant chroniclers of the Beat move ment, and thus helped to create yet another western myth. In this useful study Harry Russell Huebel does not dwell on the abundant shortcomings of Kerouac’s style (which Truman Capote once called not writing but typing), but wisely treats him as an important “social historian of the beat genera tion.” In the erratic, unbeautiful...