George R. Stewart by John Caldwell, and Scandinavian Immigrant Literature by Christer Lennart Mossberg, and Clarence King by Peter Wild, and Benjamin Capps by Ernest B. Speck, and Charles F. Lummis by Robert E. Fleming (review)
- Western American Literature
- The Western Literature Association
- Volume 17, Number 2, Summer 1982
- pp. 176-178
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176 Western American Literature of cowboys, Indians, buffalo and horses often caught in a moment of high drama. But can he justly be considered a western writer and is a study of his writings warranted? Russell produced about forty short stories and essays, most of them based on his own experience. Not very substantial works, they contain a few amusing incidents and offer some piquant instances of frontier vernacular. Robert L. Gale may tell us more about them than we want to know. His discussion of Russell’s writings proceeds in catalog fashion for over half of this pamphlet, and includes such descriptions as “side-splittingly funny.” One story, we are told, is notable for “one very awkward example of his employment of the present tense.” If a critic must strain thus to find some thing worthy of significance, is the project worth the effort? The admirable Boise Western Writer Series is surely not so hard pressed for subjects that they must select so un-notable a writer as Charles Marion Russell — particularly in view of the fact they have yet to produce a study of the creator of Leatherstocking and the author of Roughing It. GEORGE F. DAY University of Northern Iowa George R. Stewart. By John Caldwell. (Boise: Western W'riters Series No. 46, 1981. 51 pages, $2.00.) Scandinavian Immigrant Literature. By Christer Lennart Mossberg. (Boise: Western Writers Series No. 47, 1981. 52 pages, $2.00.) Clarence King. By Peter Wild. (Boise: Western Writers Series No. 48, 1981. 46 pages, $2.00.) Benjamin Capps. By Ernest B. Speck. (Boise: Western Writers Series No. 49, 1981. 50 pages, $2.00.) Charles F. Lummis. By Robert E. Fleming. (Boise: Western Writers Series No. 50, 1981. 53 pages, $2.00.) There is something about the tidiness of bunches of bound pages, all of a size and alike in appearance, that sounds a responsive chord in the hearts of those who love things to be neat. And I must confess myself among them. The Western Writers pamphlets have that same appeal, as do Twayne’s ubiquitous books about English, American and world writers — among many series that could be mentioned. Inevitably, however, such enterprises are maligned, sometimes for their monotony of organization, more often for their Procrustean insistence on treating all writers in the same compass, assigning to Etherege, for example, the same number of pages as to Chaucer. Reviews 177 Something of this latter disparity is evident in the present group of pamphlets from Boise (as it has been in past groups), and I may as well point out that obvious fact at the start. Peter Wild is assigned the same number of pages to cover one-book Clarence King that Christer Mossberg has in which to treat eighty Scandinavian-American novels (he doesn’t, of course), including the works of major writers Ole Rolvaag and Sophus Winther. But even here some of the disparity is merely apparent: King was also the first and the foremost geologist in the West, the man who created a model for American science under government sponsorship and who impressed his age and some of its brightest luminaries as “the ideal Ameri can” and “the most many-sided genius of his day.” And while Professor Wild early sows doubt in our minds as to whether King’s one important book ought to be described as “a series of reminiscences” or a “collection of fic tion,” Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada (1872) is an important contri bution to American belles-lettres, a collection of essays and sketches that mix realism and romanticism in giving to a wide readership in the East a picture — both jaunty and sincere — of the vastness of the mountain West and of its richly varied inhabitants. Even minor literary figures ought to find a place in the Series when their work or their lives or both carry larger impli cations. Scandinavian Immigrant Literature, on the other hand, may seem far too ambitious for the constraining format of the Western Writers Series. And yet Christer Mossberg is helping to break new ground by laying claim to foreign-language fiction as a part of western American literature, and so a foot in the door...