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Reviews 373 The volume provides a solid survey of Carson’slife, but it iswritten with a Neo-Whiggish slant—one which glorifies Kit and exonerates his actions which brought death and starvation to others. Guild and Carter feel that Carson is our nation’s greatest western hero, a man who “stands as the per­ sonification of the great westward surge known as Manifest Destiny.” All Americans, they argue, would “do well to remember Kit Carson as one of their heroes, for fortune has seldom smiled upon a more deserving character.” The tone of the volume does not do justice to the life of Kit Carson, and the omission of Indian sources detracts from the biography. CLIFFORD E. TRAFZER San Diego State University A Cloak of Light: Writing My Life. By Wright Morris. (New York: Harper &Row, 1985. 306 pages, $19.95.) The subtitle of this book will entice dedicated readers of Wright Morris, who have long been curious about the personality of the writer and the back­ grounds to his methods and major themes. The third volume of Morris’ memoirs—begun with Will’s Boy (1981) and continued in Solo (1983)— A Cloak of Light more or less selectively views Morris’ life from his appren­ ticeship with words and photography in the mid-thirties through the publica­ tion of Ceremony in Lone Tree in 1960. Thus the book covers Morris’ most productive years, including the composition of nearly all of his novels which explore the subject of consciousness on the Nebraska plains—such as The Field of Vision, the photo-text The Home Place, and The Works of Love. The book shows him to be more “American” and cosmopolitan than his usual reputation as a regionalist allows. An archetypal American traveler, Morris recounts his many trips cross-country and into Mexico and Europe— the raw materials for his novels and photo-text books. Places, for Morris, have always given off a “mystic” aura, subject to the probings of the imagination. As he tells us, his interest has been centered on consciousness, on “American dreams . . . concerned with the prevailing fictions of the wakeful mind.” About the specifics of his life, however, Morris is often disappointingly brief. We learn more about some of Morris’relations with famous people, but Morris refuses to indulge in literary gossip. His sketches and portraits of such figures as James Agee and Edward Dahlberg, of Saul Bellow, and of critics Granville Hicks, James Hart, Leon Howard, and Benjamin DeMott are excessively short. His meetings with John Crowe Ransom and Leslie Fiedler are consigned to single paragraphs, and his important friendship with Loren Eiseley is given with few details which illuminate the question of Eiseley’s impact on Morris’ fiction. When Morris does provide fuller information, we are treated to interesting anecdotes—such as his ploy to convince Max Perkins to publish The Inhabitants by pinning prints of his photographs to the drapes 374 Western American Literature in Perkins’office, or his account of southern hospitality when he was permitted to sleep in his car in Faulkner’s friend Phil Stone’sdriveway. One of the most useful sketches for literary criticism of Morris is that of his mother-in-law, the model for “Mother” in Man and Boy and The Deep Sleep. As Morris has alway focused in his fiction on the Jamesian question of consciousness, for depth of vision readers should return to the author’s novels and photo-texts. About his own consciousness in A Cloak of Light Morris appears characteristically reticent: he quotes himself in the book’s Coda: “. . . my true feelings were precisely those that I would learn to conceal.” Nevertheless, the book tells us something more about Morris’ personal life than has been revealed before. Two sections of photographs enhance the volume: we are treated once again to a small portfolio of Morris’ classic photographs, and introduced to personal snapshots which add dimension to the life explored in the text. JOSEPH J. WYDEVEN Bellevue College Strange Sunlight. By Peter LaSalle. (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1984. 182 pages, $15.95.) Though this is Peter LaSalle’s first novel it is his second book, following a fine collection of short fiction, The Graves of Famous Writers...


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pp. 373-374
Launched on MUSE
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