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Reviews 359 complete with the idioms of that era which have now been accepted into a language which is so dynamic that 60s talk seems quaintly out of fashion— leaving Nichols, one guesses, sounding more mellow and middle-aged and “compromised” than even he would like to admit. Frank Waters sounds all the wiser through the years which make their presence and his age known in raspings, and catches of breath;coughs and frequent pauses and breaks. One hundred years from now, ten years from now, these cassettes will be all the more valuable, not just for what they say but for how they say it. In listening to all of them in sequence, the interviewer’s voice becomes too prominent, too, alas, intrusive: a nuisance. All three writers are patient with this or that kind of mispronunciation, this or that inane question, this or that attempt in the name of the “project” to make them more “accessible,” more “understood.” We can’t help wishing for more tapes like the Nichols interview, where he takes over almost completely and the interviewer fades away. When they read their works these writers are at their best—except for Nichols who is in one big off-to-the-fire hurry to finish. His discussion of his political conversion, of politics and art is wonderful stuff, however. Waters is great in his prophecies for the future and in his discussion of myth and science. And Momaday is pure music, an utterly beautiful, perfect voice for the myths and narratives and the tellings we hear. So, these cassettes and presumably the others in the “American Audio Prose Library,” are very much worth hearing and having. They let you know in flinching clarity that interviewing is a special kind of art, one that is ideally practiced only when we can ask our own burning questions of those artists whose words have brought us joy and greater awe for the sheer puzzle and pleasure of it all. ROBERT GISH University of Northern Iowa Westerns. By Richard Dankleff. (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1984. 95 pages, $5.95.) Peter Clothier of the Los Angeles Times praised Richard Dankleff’s first book Popcorn Girl for its “brief narratives and small dramas crystallizing lucid moments of human encounter.” The same praise can be given to Dankleff’s latest endeavor, Westerns. In seventy-eight poems or historical vignettes Dankleff speaks of the western experience. Almost all bases are covered—the naturalists, buffalo hunters, sodbusters, Indians and soldiers, mountain men and missionaries—those who helped in one way or another to settle the American West. It’s an enjoyable book. Though the book is good reading on the one hand, on another hand it suffers. There seems to be no organization to it. It has no point of view or 360 Western American Literature direction. It’s a hodge-podge of western poems and random thoughts. This lack of organization is not necessarily the poet’s fault. More than likely it is his editor’s. Such is sad. Dankleff, for instance, speaks of the cholera epidemic that swept the country between 1848-50. His thoughts about it appear in “Procession” (page 10) and “Flight” (page 50). Perhaps the tragedy of that situation would have been made all the stronger if the two poems were together as a unit? The same holds true for other poetic themes throughout the book. It would perhaps have helped if in telling his story the author had his themes divided into sections relating the times and historical experiences in them. First, for instance, there was the land. On it lived the Indians. They were a proud people (“Grandfather,” “Mamanti,” “Mamanti Sings”). Then the white man came on the scene. There were lone individuals who ventured westward early in the century (“Lost Trapper,” “Mountain Camp,” “Precipice”). Then came explorations into the West (“Nuttall in Arkansa Territory [1819]” and “Col. Fremont Broods”). Wagon trains headed west. There was happiness and sadness along the trails. “Delay at the Ford” lets us share the joys of a mother and her two children who take time out to romp in the ford of a river when en route west. “Lovers’Lines” allows...


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pp. 359-360
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