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Reviews 77 mundane exist edge on edge. Through all of this Fisher achieves, along with the humor, a genuine pathos. Lorin is a protagonist difficult to like. He is an outsider everywhere he goes, an unattractive, cumbrous individual who finds himself perpetually on the outside looking in, for whom the rite of excommunication is a brilliantly apt metaphor. And it is to Fisher’s credit that the portrait has such integrity, for Lorin’s awkwardness never becomes endearing or charming, but remains awk­ ward to the end, as Fisher spares him no indignity. Cursed with a sense of dividedness which dogs him throughout the novel, Lorin begins at last to achieve an integration of his various selves—spiritual, sexual, artistic, through a transformed creative process. He makes tentative peace with his demons both literal and metaphoric, and becomes, finally, an artist who learns to work not out of bitterness or rage, but out ofjoy. Along the way, Fisher gives us a riotous, yet haunting portrait of Mormon culture, with all its grand and deadly secrets, in description which is almost always sensuous, vibrant and wonderfully motivated, and rarely self-indulgent, with the exception of a couple of very long visionary sequences—minor excep­ tions to a fine first novel. ANN L. PUTNAM University ofPuget Sound Kelly Blue. By Peter Bowen. (New York: Crown, 1991. 268 pages, $19.00.) Kelly Blue is a satiric account of the American West as it probably was but shouldn’t have been from soon after the Civil War until January of 1917 when William F. Cody died. Bowen’s persona, Kelly Blue, left home at fourteen following sexual initia­ tion with the sixteen-year-old daughter of an Episcopal Bishop. What follows are accounts of a youth becoming increasingly aware of hypocrisy. Kelly Blue is a cousin to Huck Finn, but there are great differences between Huck’s growth from naive innocent to initiate and Kelly Blue’s traumatic encounters. Many figures from nineteenth-century history are characters in the novel. Cody, Jim Bridger, U. S. Grant, Brigham Young, George Custer, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull share with an assortment of other characters adventures with savages, Indian and white. The word “savage”is appropriate: Bowen’s satiric yet comic vision of the American West illuminates savagery and hypocrisy in all people. Little in the American experience escapes Bowen’s fierce indignation. He is even-handed. For example, he is equally scathing toward Mormons, Catholics, and Protestants. Kelly Blue is a misanthrope, but given the cultures he must cope with, who can blame him? Kelly Blue is not for the faint of heart or the studiedly genteel. Bowen’s satire is Swiftian and Juvenalian. Lurking behind his narration is powerful outrage 78 Western American Literature that mankind so seldom achieves its potential for nobility. Bowen’s characters are lively, sometimes Chaucerian. The wandering peddler, Klaus, who is troubled with epic flatulence, is in the Anglo-American tradition of comic bawdiness. With Byronic engagement, Bowen sees America’s expansionist movement occurring in a ruined paradise, an Eden with some springs so poisoned not even algae will grow in them. If revisionist historians choose to seek metaphoric truth in sound, comic fiction, they will find Kelly Blue reward­ ing. Readers not interested in trying to reinterpret history will also delight in Bowen’s sustained, demythologizing vision of comic truth. Bowen cuts through the layers of excessive sentiment which characterize some memorializations of the old West—or any other fascinating period in history. KENNETH W. DAVIS Texas Tech University Lion’s Gate: Selected Poems, 1963-1986. By Keith Wilson. (El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 1988. 85 pages, $8.95.) — “it is an entry, a sort of gate, passage to, exit away, the angry maw roaring” The Lion’s Gate of these poems in none other than the ancientjourney of humankind: from the womb to death and on into the magical world populated by the ghosts. This collection is peopled by the ancestors. The voices we hear are real, without guile and unwilling to lie. They simply relate life as it is now and was. In the West we are used to feeling the caresses of the people who lived...


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pp. 77-78
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