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80 WesternAmerican Literature a letter curbs revelations of emotional or spiritual conflict, or even mention of what, to the correspondent, may seem to be merely the mundane or vexing aspects of the writer’s life. A caring daughter or sisterwho fretted over the well­ being of distant family members would not add her troubles to theirs. Written during her adult years between 1872 and 1917, her letters contrib­ ute substantial information about Mormon pioneer life in her intelligent obser­ vations of people, places, and events. They have been gathered and edited by great-granddaughter Jennifer Moulton Hansen. Though not a trained histo­ rian, the editor has painstakingly provided explanatory textual material based on archival research, family records and correspondence. If her volume lacks the density and texture of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale, it nonethe­ less provides insight into another quietly remarkable life which has been pre­ served in the homely documents of her own writing. CORALIE BEYERS Logan, Utah William Saroyan: A Study ofthe ShortFiction. By Edward Halsey Foster. (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1991. 174 pages, $21.95.) William Saroyan died in 1981. Each year since then, as the force of his presence recedes, it becomes easier to arrive at an accurate assessment of his work. This volume, divided into three parts, is a useful contribution to that endeavor. Part 1, which makes up halfof the book, is Edward Halsey Foster’s explora­ tion and explication of Saroyan’s short fiction, from TheDaring Young Man on theFlying Trapeze and Other Stories (1934) through the posthumously published Madness in the Family (1988). Pointing out that between 1934 and 1939 alone Saroyan wrote over 500 stories, Foster wisely makes no attempt to be compre­ hensive. Instead he chooses collections and individual stories which best illus­ trate Saroyan’s style and his view of the story as “the articulated word of an ancient wordlessness.” Foster’s focus is on Saroyan’s “expressionist aesthetics,” particularly the influence of Sherwood Anderson on same. He discusses the opposition of formalist critics to this aesthetic, pointing out that Saroyan has often been judged and condemned based on criteria that have little to do with what he was trying to achieve. Through the vicissitudes of a long career Saroyan was sustained, in Foster’s view, not only by adherence to his art, but his Armenian heritage. “Confronted with failures in his own life, Saroyan remade himself in the image of his ancestors. Then he was able to write again as prolifically and, at times, aswell as he had done earlier.” The second two sections of the book build on and help clarify Foster’s Reviews 81 exegesis. Part 2 is a small sampling of Saroyan’s work plus an interview and a traveler’s sketch of Armenia. Part 3 is a selection of critical work. Of particular interest is the essay, “The Time of William Saroyan’s Life” by Frederick I. Carpenter, which considers Saroyan as a California writer. In “The World of William Saroyan,” Nona Balakian views Saroyan’s style as a blending of the oral traditions of Armenia and the American West. And in ‘The Dark Side of Saroyan,”Harry Keyishian pleads for a more balanced view of the man who once wrote, “Don’t tell me I’m sentimental, you sons of bitches.” In spite of Saroyan’sonetime advice to “let the professorsjump in the river” it seems likely that he would have appreciated this book. And while a consensus of critical opinion may never match Saroyan’s own high estimation of hisworth, this book will be viewed by most Saroyan enthusiasts as a fair and timely appraisal of a body of shortfiction that continues to be readable, enjoyable and relevant. DANIEL BARTH Chico, California TheBestofthe West:An Anthology ofClassic Writingfrom theAmerican West. Edited by Tony Hillerman. (New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 528 pages, $25.00.) If the title of this volume seems familiar, it should. It is also the title of a collection published annually by Peregrine Smith. But one cannot copyright a title, and one cannot copyright an idea, however abstract. Thus, the superlative term “best” represents here precisely what it represents in the other “best” collections: editorial opinion. In...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 80-81
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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