Soldiers Falling Into Camp: The Battles at the Rosebud and the Little Bighorn by Robert Kammen, Joe Marshall, Frederick Lefthand (review)
- Western American Literature
- University of Nebraska Press
- Volume 28, Number 1, Spring 1993
- pp. 75-76
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Reviews lb up like this, alone, I’da left things the way they was. God knows this old homestead cabin was plenty good enough for me.” And Galvin’sfather, in his four-wheel drive, meets a young horseman, who says, “Thought I’d ride over and invite Lyle to Christmas dinner with us. Didn’t think the snowmobile would make it through the drifts between your place and his. Nothing stops this nag.” “Do you think Lyle will come down for dinner?” “Oh, I know for a fact he won’t, but we ask him every year,just so he knows he can if he wants.” “And you’re riding fifteen miles through deep snow in a blizzard to invite Lyle to a dinner you are sure he won’t attend?” Clay looked down at his horse as if he’d never seen one before. “Looks like it.” Not irony and pity. Irony without pity; irony with understanding and affection. It’s a marvelous book. DELBERT E. WYLDER Corrales, New Mexico SoldiersFallingInto Camp: TheBattlesat theRosebud and theLittleBighorn. ByRobert Kammen, Joe Marshall and Frederick Lefthand. (Encampment, Wyoming: Affiliated Writers ofAmerica Publishers, 1992. 230 pages, $19.95.) The jacket of this book reads “Non-Fiction/American History,” and an authors’ note invokes “Lakota and Crow oral tradition.”This led me to expect an oral history informed by the heritage of Marshall, a Lakota, and of Lefthand, an Absaroka. Though some characters are based on accounts given to Marshall and Lefthand, the story is written as fiction, with invented dialogue and emotional content. Alternate chapters follow Benteen, Reno, Custer, et al. pursuing their aims and delusions to a well-known end. Using fiction to present tribal, oral history may be the most effective way to reach a general audience of readers. Fools Crow (Viking-Penguin, 1986) draws the reader into the lost Blackfeet world, yet never urges itselfas history, despite James Welch’s Blackfeet heritage and evident research. Likewise, Shadow Catcher (Soho Press, 1991) uses fiction to illuminate the Wanamaker “Citizenship Expedition” of 1913. Novelist Charles Fergus uses surviving documents and photos for structure, and then endows them with profound heart. In contrast, Soldiers Falling Into Camp effaces the identity of its sources. Along with four books, the bibliography cites Albert H. Two Hawk (1888-1975) 76 WesternAmerican Literature and Isaac Bear (1883-1954). This places a stress on the level of detail, on texture, and on personal style, yet these are obscured by their fictional render ing. Though the reader is told that it rests on first person accounts, neither the content nor context of those accounts is clear. Who told which part of the story? In what words? When? To whom? In the chapters based on these accounts, warriors are “stalwart”and eyes are “liquid.” Later chapters improve, but still lack the attribution to be read as history. Since history is what the book claims to provide, the reader is caught in a contradiction between aim and means. Custer’s fall from icon to embarrassment is, historically, a done deal. The lasting value of this book must lie in its ability to convey a chosen event in human context, and here it suffers, mostly for technical reasons. Yet even with its liabilities in style, SoldiersFallingInto Campis aworthy project. In it the reader senses the realms persistently excluded, but not erased, from the national memory. C. L. RAWLINS Boulder, Wyoming In SearchofLiterary L.A. ByLionel Rolfe. (Los Angeles: California Classics Books, 1991. 180 pages, $11.95.) This collection of journalistic essays is an expansion of Rolfe’s earlier Literary L.A. It may be seen as a companion volume to the recently published Sagebrush Bohemian, a biography of Mark Twain in California and Nevada written byNigey Lennon, Rolfe’swife. Both books argue thatwestern bohemian life has long been the dynamic engine of our country’s literaryculture, and they share an edgy populist hostility to eastern attitudes and academic criticism. For Rolfe (as for Lennon) there is a continuity of west-coast literary bohemianism, from MarkTwain’s day, to the coffee-house scene of the ’50s and ’60s, to present-day bohemians like Charles Bukowski (whose photograph is on the cover). Hollywood writers...