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66 Western American Literature road. In several ways his manuscript diary on file at the Utah State University Library reveals more about London’s growing realization of the ways of the road than this book does. One wishes that London had taken the time to structure his narrative in order to make full use of the rich materials he had at hand. The Road, then, illustrates two aspects of London’s literary career. First, he catches the reader’s attention with his lively lingo (he introduces the full range of road vocabulary) and his ability to spin yarns about his months of riding the rods. Second, London, under the pressures of deadlines and his need for financial support, pays too little attention to the form of his book. This conflict between his narrative abilities and his willingness to pander his abilities for needed income is the central tension in London’s career. One wonders if London’s niche in the American literary pantheon might not have been higher if he had taken time to unite his narrative talents and his abilities to gather numerous interesting personal experiences. The present edition of The Road is available in both hardback and paperback from Peregrine Press. Prefaced with a helpful introduction by King Hendricks, an authority on London’s work, this volume introduces modem readers to a life-style common to many men in the years surrounding 1900. The Road was for London’s time what Hemingway’s, Kerouac’s, and Kesey’s jaunts were for other generations. London’s book is an early prototype for later American novels that have centered on two of our major traits — movement and mobility. RICHARD W. ETULAIN, Idaho State University Pictures of the Journey Back. By Jack Matthews. (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1973. 176 pages, $5.95) Some two or three academic years ago, Jack Matthews was writer-in-residence at Wichita State University. Pictures of the Journey Back seems to be the result of either a contractual or moral obligation to produce a work derived from this experience and to set it in the plains region. For the non-native reader, the result is an interesting plot employing generally credible characters and posing some intriguing aesthetic and existential questions. J. Dan Swope, an old cowboy-rancher, goes to Wichita to bring the estranged daughter, Laurel Burch, along with her goat-bearded, film-maker boyfriend, Jeffrey Martin, back to her dying mother in Eastern Colorado. Jeffrey (like the author, an artist foreign to the region) chronicles the trip back with his hand held movie camera, and, as the film takes shape in Jeffrey’s well-schooled mind, J. Dan, predictably, emerges as the ingenuous natural whose very life is an unconscious work of art. The skillfully handled central metaphor of the moving picture is the most compelling aspect of the novel, culminating in the striking still photo of J. Dan and Laurel at her mother’s death bed. Jeffrey snaps the picture, but, ironically and significantly, the photo remains with J. Dan and Jeffrey never sees it, Reviews 67 even though it would form the teleological core, sought by Jeffrey, from which his film must emanate if it is to be successful. One can also discern the influence of the myth critics on the composition of the novel — heading West in November with a centaur, a satyr, and a wood nymph in a quest for death (Florence, Laurel’s mother, is specifically equated to the Holy Grail) with cosmic events (a tornado, likened to the finger of God) and priapic life sources (a hitch-hiking Orpheus named Peter Peters) to be encountered on their odyssey. But the native Kansan or an observer who, unlike Matthews, has looked beyond the cliche and the superficial will have trouble suspending disbelief because of the many inaccuracies in fact, tone, and feeling for the region. The errors begin in the very first paragraph. The Flint Hills do not lie anywhere close to Zimmerdale (U.S. 81 northwest a few miles of Newton), nor are they, for God’s sake, covered with buffalo grass! From Wichita west to the ski slopes of Colorado one encounters the buffalo grass of...


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