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80 Western American Literature they are reading fiction, inviting them to think of other works of the imagina­ tion. In a real sense, Popham is playing the feeling and sensitive person against the unfeeling and insensitive. The four chapters without epigraphs celebrate the sensitivity of the old couple who for almost forty years have found the coyotes good neighbors. Albert and Hallie Ryder long ago set themselves apart from the norms of twentieth-century life and have made a quiet life for themselves on the Sonoran Desert. Their devotion to each other and their appreciation for their natural world complement the coyotes’ care for each other and ability to live with the land. Indeed, the coyotes’ crisis over the water supply becomes a crisis for the Ryders. If Ray Draper, the coyote trapper, is the essence of the unfeeling, the Ryders show some of our species as keenly sensitive. In the epigraphless chap­ ters, Popham gives us four letters by Hallie, who in her grief over the coyotes prepares for her own death, which she knows is imminent. Does Popham skirt the sentimental? Well, yes. Probably the poetry of her epigraphs and the parable flavor help her carry off her celebration of feeling people and her celebration of the animal kingdom. Her own prose is usually effective, but given the nuances of poetry and myth that govern her narrative, it is regrettable that her editor didn’t catch the misplaced modifier at the start of chapter two. Also, Popham’s fondness for the split infinitive can be distract­ ing. But she has ventured to teach us about the lives of some interesting crea­ tures, and she has ventured to teach us how to be. Her voice is, then, both courageous and gentle. The coyote hunters won’t read her book, but there may be some other Ryders in the making. JOSEPH M. FLORA The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chronicles of a Small Town. By Jim W. Corder. (College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 1989. 175 pages, $16.95.) Jayton, Texas is still on the map, and Jim Corder lived there once. Before he wrote his memoir, Lost in West Texas, he went searching for his childhood in the Croton Breaks, the rough West Texas Plains dominated by the Double Mountains, “where God lives.” He found Jayton on the edge of the Breaks, but the dusty little town is not the place he had stashed away in his memory. What he found was only a “trace or two” of himself, and he could not leave it at that. He continues the search in Chronicles, but Corder makes a sometimes painful discovery. What he remembers about his small-town childhood never was. As he reads all the issues he can find of the weekly Jayton Chronicle pub­ lished in the 1930s and early 1940s, he soon realizes that he must revise his remembered past. Reviews 81 What he shares then is not a memoir, nor is it an autobiography. Corder, known in the scholarly world as an expert teacher of rhetoric and composition, examines instead the process of remembering. Mistaken that reading old news­ papers can reveal an individual life, he finds the past-seeker must compromise and create his history from inferences drawn from fragments of unreliable memory. His conclusion is poetry: “We’re transients, ghosts, mere interpreta­ tions somewhere else, already forgotten. We’re transients, brother, and that’s all right.” If this exploration of a personal past is not a memoir, then how can we classify it? Against the background of small-town life captured here, the writer superimposes the images he remembers of his boyhood and sometimes creates poetry. Repetition of the image of the child calling in the distance and of the brother lost in a dust storm, who can see his shadow walking beside him, provides the narrative’s connecting motifs. If readers sometimes become impa­ tient with the cataloguing of grocery and cotton prices and weather reports, they soon forgive. The mysteries in remembered pasts puzzle all of us. What the memoirist seeks is what Corder discovers finally: “You are real, and I am real. We remember. We aren’t shadows in...


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pp. 80-81
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