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114 Western American Literature Raymond Chandler provides a challenging introduction to the various dimen­ sions of the myth of the West versus the reality of the new West explored by other writers in the volume. Part 2, “Paradigms of the Old West,” contains a fine analysis of the new historicism and the old West by Forrest Robinson, as well as discussions of Mari Sandoz, Willa Cather and others. Part 3, “Writing in the New West,”opens with a fascinating piece by Marilynne Robinson on her “western roots,” solitude and lonesomeness, and the myth of the West. The section also includes discussions of Robinson’s Housekeeping, and of other contemporary writers like Thomas McGuane, Ivan Doig, and Ursula K. LeGuin. Part 4 is perhaps an obligatory nod toward ethnic diversity, with an informative piece on Mourning Dove and one on playwright David Henry Hwang. The final section, “New Directions for the New West,” has only one selection, but it is an important plea by Glen Love for an ecological criticism. Like any collection, this one is occasionally uneven. But this is a continu­ ously interesting and provocativevolume that demonstrates the manydifferent ways the myth ofthe West and the nature of the “NewWest”can be intelligently and rewardingly explored. Would that each annual conference of the WLA could be represented with such a volume. Meldrum’s project and the Univer­ sity of Idaho’s support are to be commended. WALTER ISLE Rice University Dreamers and Desperadoes: Contemporary ShortFiction ofthe American West. Edited by Craig Lesley. (New York: Laurel, 1993. 532 pages, $12.95.) Craig Lesley is a more than competent editor, and this is a more than competently assembled collection of short fiction. Readers will find “heavy hitters” here: Richard Ford, Ron Carlson, Rick Bass,James Welch. Addition­ ally, some genuinely celebrated writers—Amy Tan, Ursula K Le Guin, Rick DeMarinis—and some truly fine literary authors such as Barbara Kingsolver, William Kittredge, Ivan Doig, and Rudolfo A. Anaya are here. And there are some relatively new names present as well. With such an array, it’s hard to imagine that almost everyone won’tfind something here to please. There isn’t a bad story in the lot. Lesley confides in his introduction to the collection that he wanted to focus on themes having to do with working people and their situations; and this he does. Unfortunately, as a body of work, the stories here come off as ponderous, almost brooding in tone and content. Reading too manyin a row is actually depressing. Apart from Ron Carlson’s delightfully humorous “Big Foot Stole MyWife,”the collection is almost unrelieved from heavy accounts of personal tragedy or fictional-autobiographical ruminations. Reviews 115 Exceptions are rare. Jean Wakatsuki Houston’s “Rock Garden” is a story with dark tones, but it offers a kind of spiritual uplift at the end. Molly Gloss’s “Personal Silence”also offers a wonderful change of pace, and Lesley is to be complimented for adding a storywith a “sci-fi”bent to the group. But too many of the stories resemble Barry Lopez’s “The Interior of North Dakota,” a weighty account of geography and spirituality that promises far more hope than it delivers, or the heavier tones of Tess Gallagher’s “Girls.” Both are excellent, but one wants to cry “enough!” Lesley seems to have planned the collection as a text for creative writing classrooms, given its extraordinarily high multi-cultural profile. It’s almost as if he strained to include every ethnic group or minority, to the end that instead of a multi-faceted gathering of shortfiction, there is a sense of sameness in the volume. Surprisingly, Lesley also includes one of his own stories, “Mint.”It’s not a bad story; actually, it’s one of the best in the collection. But he should know better. The only serious flaw in the book, though, is that Lesley has omitted a fairly large portion of the American West. Oklahoma isn’t here; and except for Rick DeMarinis, a transplanted Easterner living in El Paso, Texas is also unrepresented. That’s a shame, for there are many good writers living in this huge segment of the traditional American West...


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pp. 114-115
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