In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews 169 civic committee which voted to divert part of a nearby river from Quinn’s ranch. Here, water becomes the focus of a struggle for power, just as it does in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown. Indeed, Quinn himself possesses something of the amoral charm of Noah Cross. Although we do not ordinarily think of him as a regionalist, Truman Capote is one of a number of eastern writers who has found in the West both a literal and a metaphorical setting for some of his better work. MARK ROYDEN WINCHELL University of Southern Mississippi Big Sioux Pioneers. Edited by Arthur R. Huseboe. (Sioux Falls, SD: Nordland Heritage Foundation, 1980. 88 pages, $3.00.) Interest in ethnic background spawns the organization of heritage foun­ dations, and they, in turn, emphasize local histories. Many references to very specific locations and surnames, recognizable to members of the Nordland Heritage Foundation, are made in Big Sioux Pioneers: Essays about the Settlement of the Dakota Frontier. This collection, therefore, appears to be another compilation of endemic topics. It is that, yet more. Detailing marks the collection. Readers of western American literature will find most of these essays quite edifying, because O. E. Rolvaag’s Scandi­ navians monopolize the text. The contributing authors focus on the acquisi­ tion of land, the buildings, farming methods, and old world-new world values. Although the entire collection is well-titled, the articles appealing to wide readership seem to be camouflaged. Big Sioux Pioneers will never sell a million copies but would approach that figure more closely if the collection’s feature author, O. E. Rolvaag, had received top billing on the cover as he did inside. KATHRYN E. R. JOHNSON, Logan, Utah Winter Brothers: A Season at the Edge of America. By Ivan Doig. (New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980. 246 pages, $10.95.) The author wants us to believe he met his “brother,” James Gilchrist Swan, in the University of Washington library, deep in its archives where box after box of Swan’s diaries are kept — forty years of diaries totaling some two and a half million handwritten words. Under the spell of these 170 Western American literature notebooks, Doig holds tryst with the diarist, sensing a connection between Swan’s westering experience and his own a century later. In a style far more evocative than anything Swan used, Doig attempts to weave a spell of his own over us. Ostensibly the book is about Swan, the restless Bostonian who in 1850 at the age of thirty-two permanently left his wife and two sons to go to California, then a couple years later to settle in the Pacific Northwest, first along the desolate coast near Gray’s Harbor, later at the northernmost tip of the Olympic Peninsula at Neah Bay, and finally at Port Townsend where he died at eighty-two in 1900. The book’s deeper purpose, however, is to reveal the inner landscape of Doig’s own western mind, its configura­ tions supposedly harmonizing with those he perceived in Swan. Doig would have us suspend our disbelief ; he wants us to succumb to the hypnotic prose that fuses his language with Swan’s, italicized. Whether we are willing to do this depends upon the trust Doig establishes, asking us to accept the rapprochement between the two “brothers” separated by a century and a thousand different circumstances. In short, Doig wants us to journey not only into Swan’s world but into his own, and to see the similitude. It is, indeed, a strange book Doig has created — an overlapping of mindscapes, an imaginary brotherhood delineated by the impressionism befitting a wintry Puget Sound fog. WF hat Doig tells separately about Swan and himself makes good reading. The murk is in the overlay, the contrived fusion. Is it because Doig hasn’t earned the intimacy he presumes to share with Swan? Straight on, Swan was an engrossing character: oysterman, teacher, linguist, amateur anthropologist, customs collector, artist, land speculator, explorer, judge, collector of Indian artifacts for the Smithsonian Institution, secretary to Governor Isaac Stevens, and author of numerous scientific mono­ graphs including the notable volume, The Northwest Coast (1857). No white person surpasses his...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 169-171
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.