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Reviews 171 the voice of a journalist rather than historian or poet. Not so in Doig’s earlier book, This House of Sky (1978), in which Montana’s sky and moun­ tains are truly Doig’s. We suspect his heart is still back there, even in his writing Winter Brothers, dedicated, he says, to “The Missoula Gang.” HAROLD P. SIMONSON, University of Washington Ursus Major. By Roberta Smoodin. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980. 212 pages, $8.95.) Ursus Major, Los Angeles writer Roberta Smoodin’s first novel, requires a good deal of willing suspension of disbelief from the reader. Loosely picaresque in construction, it is the story of a bear that dances to rock and roll music and that also talks. The bear is made, quite explicitly, a symbol of hippiedom and the sixties, with his innate good nature, naivete, sensuality, enjoyment of the moment, and love for music and dance. In one passage the bear hitchhiking blends off into a nostalgic description of hitchhiking in the sixties. The bear too is now out of synchronization with the times; “but where is the natural place for a bear these days? in Yosemite with gaping tourists? in cartoons? in zoos? in interior decoration as bearskin rugs, fangs agleam?” Smoodin is a talented writer, with a style that is, in a positive sense of the word, “poetic.” Many of the best passages in the book are detailed and accurate yet impressionistic descriptions of landscape and cityscape, with long, flowing, evocative sentences conveying a sense of movement through the scene. One problem with the novel is that the symbolism is too belabored, the reader both nudged to observe elements of the sixties in the bear, and bombarded with detail about rock music and comparisons with musicians and dance. Another is that the bear’s point of view is not consistent, some­ times being presented as that of an animal without consciousness or memory, at other times in remembered images drawn from film or science fiction. Smoodin, however, also has a good ear for dialogue; two of the best sequences are the bear with a basketball team and the Los Angeles and Hollywood episodes with which the story ends. There is some truth in the observation, near the end of the novel, “Sic semper urso: you either take or leave the bear story.” Nevertheless, for the fantasy to work, the reader must be caught up in the flow of the narrative with no sense of false note or interruption. KATHARINE M. MORSBERGER Claremont, California 172 Western American Literature BRIEF NOTICES John Muir: To Yosemite and Beyond, Writings from the Years 1863 to 1875. Edited by Robert Engberg and Donald Wesling. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1980. 171 pages, $5.95.) This is a selection of Muir’s work, including both published and previ­ ously unpublished material, arranged chronologically and suitably intro­ duced, so as to continue his autobiography, The Story of My Boyhood and Youth. It shows Muir in emergence into his mature, complex thought; what is set forth in these writings is a concept of nature and the mind-nature continuum that no western writer before Muir had achieved. “Muir’s was a new kind of life,” the editors state, and this collection gives a great deal of weight to such an assertion. 1 Remain: The Letters of Lew Welch & The Correspondence of His Friends. Volume One: 1949-1960; Volume Two: 1960-1971. Edited by Donald Allen. (Bolinas, California: Grey Fox Press, 1980. I: 224 pages, $5.95; II: 200 pages, $5.95.) These letters are the closest thing to an autobiography we will have, of an interesting and good man who struggled and thrashed, achieved moments of great clarity and purity of expression, and finally went down under various weights, some of them perhaps self-created. These volumes also tell much about the “San Francisco Renaissance,” and reflect with a certain idiosyncratic accuracy the shape of mid-twentieth century America. T.L. ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 171-172
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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