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68 Western American Literature that may rightly be leveled at Hanson’s view of her own subject as well. The topic resonates with complexities that would surely benefit from much of the recent fruitful attention paid to the relationship between canonized writers and marginalized American culture, but this study is, unfortunately, plagued by an inattention to recent scholarship, overly short readings, typographical errors, and troubling generalizations. LAWRENCE R. RODGERS Kansas State University A Variable Harvest: Essays and Reviews of Film and Literature. By Jon Tuska. (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc., 1990. 384 pages, $35.00.) This collection features what some editors like to call “non-academic” prose. But, though it is plain, it is far from belletristic. All in all, it confirms Jon Tuska as a man very much engaged in his own discursive enterprise. And it links him with the characters one occasionally encounters in the novels of Thomas Savage—second-generation ranchers who are brilliant, self-taught, self-made, and rough hewn. They are men of independent, crystal clear vision who are, by their own accounts, deceived by nothing and know the value of everything. His style is flinty. It cuts against the grain at times; it flashes at others. The film studies are generally engaging. His swift, lean account of the western from 1903 to the present, for example, is as fine a synopsis as one is ever likely to find in 30 pages. Essay after essay contains seemingly gratuitous phrases, often parenthetical, which suddenly suggest vast possibilities for thought and research. But his “Conversation with Dick Richards,” more aptly read as a monologue—perhaps even as a harangue—is symptomatic of a counter tend­ ency in Tuska’s writing to overwhelm the material. Here the voice of Richards is garbled and finally drowned in the flood of Tuska’s critical ruminations and assaults. He respects the technical mastery of Richards, a director whose work in the seventies was quirky and singular, but disdains his narrative style. This unfettered opinionating unfortunately blocks any possibility of honest, reveal­ ing communication. He is even tougher, however, when he turns his attention from films to books. It is a mark of his scholarship that he takes the work of Louis L’Amour seriously as literature. At L’Amour’s mansion in Hollywood, Tuska meets him head-on and forces a showdown of sorts. L’Amour blinks first. The ensuing study traces what Tuska characterizes as L’Amour’s duplicitous career with exhausting tenacity. At the end, one suspects he barely suppresses an urge to coerce L’Amour to return his famous gold medal. Reviews 69 Reading Tuska is watching the myth of the West deconstruct itself. Here we are getting the facts straighter, if not completely straight. (His eccentric documentation unfortunately makes verification a hit or miss proposition.) As these things go, it is a sprawling, idiosyncratic book, filled with facts, opinions, and the pleasant white noise of foreign tongues. It may be a variable harvest but it is also a sustaining one, which shows how diligently Tuska has tilled his own garden over the past twenty years. JOHN KOONTZ Drew University Gather Studies, Volume I. Edited by Susan J. Rosowski. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990. 189 pages, $25.00.) Gather scholars are certain to be delighted by the debut of a publication devoted exclusively to Cather studies. An editorial policy statement opening the hardbound, biennially published volume invites submissions on all aspects of Gather’s life and art; an editor’s note explains that the first volume has as its foundation papers presented at the 1987 Third National Seminar on Willa Cather. The articles in the first volume are interesting, thought-provoking, clearly and intelligently written and researched, and cover a wide range of topics. Several articles are devoted to various themes in the novels themselves: David Stouck deals with the influence of nineteenth-century Russian authors on Cather’s work, John J. Murphy traces references to Dante, Anne Fisher-Wirth treats loss and redemption in the novels, John N. Swift writes of narrative movement and death in Death Comes for the Archbishop, Susan Rosowski discusses gender in Cather’s endings, Jean Schwind covers art in...


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