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92 Western American Literature Survival. By Nancy Lord. (Minneapolis'. Coffee House Press, 1991. 161 pages, $9.95.) Living close to nature in Alaska requires keen skills for survival, as parts of the country are still as unspoiled and primitive as they were when all of the lower forty-eight were in varying degrees of exploration—an overriding reason many people are drawn to its shores. In the initial story, “Survival,” from which the collection takes its name, the narrator explains, “You don’t live in a small Alaskan town for thejob you can get; you do whateverjob you can in order to be able to live in such a place.” Nancy Lord presents these contemporary pioneers in a way which makes them seem like former neighbors or college friends. She serves slices ofAlaskan life which are intriguing, poignant, and earthy. As it does in much of western literature, the land itself plays the most powerful role in her fifteen dramas. Each one, like a gem in the northern lights tiara, represents a quest for quality and meaning in life. Most are about women’s relationships with: the environ­ ment (“Waiting for the Thaw”a picture of cabin fever), each other (“Imitations” where the companionship of a unique dog is preferable to that of a boorish beau), and men (“Snowblind” the tale of a government employee’s overly romanticized affair with an unkempt Peter Pan who also happens to be mar­ ried). Four stories are told primarily from a male point of view. Of these “Bucketful of Mice”was my favorite and a powerful reminder that food fulfills only one of our basic needs. Her characterization and gripping imagery, remi­ niscent of Flannery O’Connor, are outstanding. Let us hope Ms. Lord will continue to take time from her commercial fishing job to share more of the experiences of those new and original Alaskans which she catches in her perceptive net—because as Nadine in “Snowblind” says, “Some of us need Alaska, even if it’s only in our minds. You know, even ifwe’re not there, we need Alaska to be there.” MICHAELINE K. V. CHANCE-REAY Columbus State Community College The Bounty of Texas. Edited by Francis Edward Abernethy. (Denton, Texas: University of North Texas Press, 1990. 232 pages, $19.95.) “A folklorist can live off the bounty of Texas easy enough—and get fat,” editor F. E. Abernethy says, figuratively explaining this title and literally describ­ ing some members of the Texas Folklore Society. From Mr. and Mrs. J. Frank Dobie (deceased) to Elmer Kelton and Robert Flynn (now in their prime), there are 18 never-before-published essays on folklore and, in one case, fakelore (“Folk Speech in Texas Prisons”). An extraordinary essay is somewhere in ...


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