In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

B o o k R e v ie w s 3 5 9 rator works to control tone and rhythm, allowing a reader to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each character. González tells the stories ofvarious migrant farm workers in the grape fields of California. He reminds us that while things may have changed since the days of Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and La Huelga, much more remains the same. Long days, low wages, lack of job security and insurance is commonplace for the characters who are not ignorant of such benefits but rather tragically trapped by a commerce system that requires them to suffer the indignities of a sulfur-covered harvest for the benefit of consumers. The characters understand their socioeconomic plight but are more focused on daily survival. The book does not bring us back full circle to ... yno se la tragó la tierra; it takes us one step beyond. Instead of one protagonist struggling with the existential question of a just world, González’s characters often play both protagonist and antagonist. Like the grapes they pick, they are rooted in the soil of the fields and neighbor­ ing communities. Each character is working to come to terms with the reality presented. Readers will be introduced to the collective sigh of migrant workers whose daily lives parallel those of any other U.S. citizen. Incest, closet homo­ sexuality, homophobia, drugs, immigration, control, manipulation, the need for community confronted by the desire for individualism, and confusion over love and lust make up a story that helps to propel the migrant tale forward. Unsettling the Literary West: Authenticity and Authorship. By Nathaniel Lewis. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003. 297 pages, $49.95. Reviewed by Jefferson D. Slagle Ohio State University, Columbus Nathaniel Lewis’s Unsettling the Literary West is a wide-ranging tour of west­ ern literary history aimed at “unsettling” many of critics’ most closely held truisms. Western literature’s concern with “the pursuit, production, and market­ ing of the ‘real West,’” he claims, “all but define the history of western literature and criticism” (1); it is a literature that “is frequently, perhaps fundamentally, about authenticity” (7). This obsession with the authentic, the accurate, and the real has shaped the form and content of western texts, stunted the growth of a western literary tradition, governed the authorial self-invention of western writers, and produced the canonical invisibility of western literature. Such an environment has influenced the way that western literature has been read: as neither art nor history and therefore largely neglected in a canon that values imaginative power and aesthetics as its primary evaluative categories. Lewis thus contends that western literature is “a series of simulations that model reality for us” (192), engaging in a “production of the real” (Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 23), then carefully erasing the traces of that produc­ 3 6 0 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n l it e r a t u r e F a l l 2 0 0 5 tion. Western literature is, for Lewis, “the first and best example of postmodern writing in American literary history” (192). Unsettling begins with 1820s travel nanatives that claim to faithfully represent western life. It is in this analysis that Lewis announces his departure from standard constructions of the West as frontier (he argues, for example, that frontier authors such as Cooper aren’t writing the West) and embarks on a canon-fracturing investigation of what integrates western literature as a body of (possibly) related texts. One consequence of denaturing canoniza­ tion is that a rather eclectic collection of authors and texts may be marshaled as argumentative support and ground for analysis, and in this Lewis does not disappoint. His analyses range from Mary Austin’s engagement with environ­ mental constructivism to the possibilities of Gerald Vizenor’s postindianness for western authors more generally. Lewis also examines authors who are not often considered in their western context, as in his analysis of Mark Twain’s construction of a farcical authentic persona, Edgar Allen Poe’s western pastiche Journal ofJulius Rodman, and Frank Norris’s negotiations of canonical author­ ship...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 359-360
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.