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BOOK REVIEWS The Zunis: Self-Portrayals. By the Zuni People. Alvina Quam, Translator. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1972. 245 pages, $7.95) These simple incidents and stories related by Zuni Indians are the result of a major cooperative project. Using funds allocated by the Office of Economic Opportunity, the stories were tape-recorded; translated in cooperation with the Duke Indian Oral History Project of the University of Utah; edited by Mrs. Virginia Lewis, wife of the present Zuni governor, with funds supplied by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Research and Cultural Studies Development Section; given a Foreword by Mr. Floyd A. O’Neil, Assistant Director of the Center for Studies of the American West; an Introduction by Mr. Robert E. Lewis, Governor of Zuni Pueblo; and published by the University of New Mexico Press. This may well be why the book is not too successful. Too many fingers have spoiled the pie. Storytelling among Pueblo Indians boasts a long tradition of oral communica­ tion. The Hopis observe a storytelling period in December when people gather to listen all night to tales that may take hours to relate. It is an art we Anglos have long forgotten. The art consists, not of making a point as do our written tales, but of relating sensory impressions and dialogues between all the characters, be they rocks, trees, animal or man. Oral communication, such as casual gossip, also often reflects these qualities. The forty-six stories in the present book, averaging five pages each, lack this immediacy; they have been too honed down. One of them, of two paragraphs, is the mere statement of an inconsequential incident. The stories have been tidily grouped into modem categories — Society, History, Fables, Fables of Moral Instruction, Religion, and War and Defense — which seems out of keeping with the traditional Indian belief in one flowing stream of life that permeates all thinking and activities. Several Fables of Moral Instruction actually append the moral as if it were not obvious in the text. How different this is from the tales told to children by Cheyenne elders, as related in Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm. They draw no moral unless a child is interested enough to ask questions afterward, when its full teaching is explained. One wishes there were more folktales or myths of those ancient times when birds, beasts, and men spoke the same language, such as those of the Xingu Indians of Brazil so beautifully recorded by the Villas Boas brothers and published last year. 60 Western American Literature Despite these serious faults, the section on Religion contains some interesting stories: adventures of the War Gods, the ritual of the Scalp Dance, and how Halona, the Middle Place, got its name. But on the whole Zuni religion and ceremonialism is sketchily treated. The material adds nothing to the great, basic work of Ruth L. Bunzel on Zuni Origin Myths, Ritual Poetry, and Kachinas published in the Smithsonian Report forty-four years ago. This book, as it seems to this reviewer at least, reflects the present unhappy status of Zuni which is undergoing the process of modernization and industrializa­ tion under the direction of the Bureau of Indian. Affairs, in opposition to the futile protests of its minority religious faction. But Zuni always has been one of the largest and most staunchly religious of all pueblos. One can only hope that its last remnants of traditional beliefs can be recorded fully, without tampering, before they are swept under the rug by Progress. FRANK WATERS, Taos, New Mexico The Warren Wagontrain Raid. By Benjamin Capps. New York: Dial Press, 1974. $8.85. There was a time when fiction was fiction and fact was fact and the twain were not ordinarily supposed to meet. Then the lines between the genres began to disappear and we had biographical fiction, fictionized biography, fact pieces that read like stories and stories that sounded like factual reporting. An end product of the tendency would be books like In Cold Blood in which a novelist uses all his tools without apology to convey an understanding of something that actually happened. Benjamin Capps’ latest work belongs in this category. It will raise a question in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 59-60
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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