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176 Western American Literature A Killing in New Town. By Kate Horsley. (Albuquerque, New Mexico: La Alameda Press, 1996. 270pages, $14.95.) Winner of the 1996 Western States Arts Federation Book Award for fiction, A Killing inNewTownisthe secondnovel inKate Horsley’strilogy about latenineteenthcentury NewMexico. The first novel, Crazy Woman, currently inpaperback, is a varia­ tion of the nineteenth-century Indian captivity narrative with a heroine called crazy because she insists onher selfhood. The last volume ofthe trilogy, “Careless Love,”an accountofayoungman’sodysseyfromBostontoNewMexicoinsearchofhisheritage, is nowin afinal draft. Itgoes without sayingthatlandscape isasintegral apartofwesternfictionasisthe heath in aThomas Hardy or the moor in a Emily Bronte novel. In addition to its land­ scape, however, A Killing inNewTown is populated by figures who, intheir complexi­ ty, aremore than amatch foritsrailroad settingin 1880’sNewMexico. The leadcharacter, ElizaPelham, wife ofarailroadforeman, has hadhertwo chil­ drenabductedandabusedby amalevolent salesmanwhohas cometoNewTownonthe train withhis catalogofmerchandise andhis orderbook, Babbitt’sevil twinofagener­ ationbefore SinclairLewis’s, whotirelesslyboosts theconsumergoodsthattherailroad has brought west. Soiled dove or prairie madonna—Eliza is neither and both. She has hadanadulterous affairwithamerchantintown; sheisanalcoholic; but shegoesonthe trail afterher missingchildren withan intensitythat canonly be satisfied withblood. Eliza’s unlikely allies are Bridie, a consumptive Irish dance hall girl with just enough of abrogue to make her tragedy authentic, andtheApache Robert, the product of an eastern Indian school whohas come home to search for his Indianness under the layeringsofMelvilleandMozarthehas acquiredduringhis sojourninPennsylvania. He willinglypaysforself-discoverywithhislifewhenheisunjustlylynchedforhorsetheft. His dying words, “I am your enemy,” doom him in the eyes of whites but are his epiphany, intendedas an affirmationofwhohe is. While theplot involvingthe rescue ofthechildren is linear, bipolar structural ele­ ments reminiscent of Hawthorne’s short stories and Melville’s Billy Budd add texture and tension: the mountains and the plains, Eros and Thanatos, the Civil War past and the 1880’s present. NewTown, a village on the plains, is filled with the noise of car­ penters’hammers. One has to travel a distance to the mountains before the sound of hammers is superseded by bird calls. Adulterous lust, mother love, married love, love offriends areallpartofEliza’sexperience. But she isalsosurroundedbydeathoffam­ ily, friends, andenemies. Twentyyears aftertheCivilWar, Elizastill cannot forget itor herfirst lovekilled at thebattle ofFranklin, Tennessee. TheCivilWar, however, looms larger than her memories as atransplanted Southerner. The Salas family ofNewTown lost a sonat the battle ofGlorietaPass, NewMexico, sometimes called theGettysburg oftheWest.Thepastandpresentcometogetherwhen,uponlearningofRobert’slynch­ ing, a deeply distraught Eliza asks plaintively who will tell his mother, the echo of a line from the poignant Confederate wartime song, “Somebody’s Darling,” mentioned earlier in the text. KateHorsley’sgreat affectionforthetricultural Southwestanditspeople isevident everywhere in this novel in which Hispanics, Native Americans, and Anglos are all majorplayers. HerAnglos areconfusedbyalandinwhichthey arethe newcomers; her Reviews 111 Hispanicspossessthedignityandwalkthemoralhighgroundofapeoplewhohavebeen rooted inthe land for generations; herNativeAmericans are burdenedbythe contradic­ tions forceduponthemby asocietythat wantstomakethemoverinits ownimage. Out ofthese three cultural strands, Kate Horsley has created anextraordinary set ofcharac­ ters interactinginanarrativewelldeservingofthe awardit hasearnedfromtheWestern StatesArts Federation. IVANMELADA UniversityofNewMexico Walking the Twilight II: Women Writers of the Southwest. Edited by Kathryn Wilder. (Flagstaff, Arizona; NorthlandPublishing, 1996. 245 pages, $14.95.) Although Walking the TwilightII was conceived as a collection of short fiction by women in the Southwest, fewer than half of the twenty-five pieces create a satisfying, fictional cosmos in which characters are revealed and developed through their actions. Instead, editor Kathryn Wilder has compiled numerous personal essays, prose poems, andanecdotes—allperfectlylegitimate forms,but ifWilderconsciouslydecidedagainst acollectionof short fiction, herediting shouldreflect andexplain the present collection ofdisparateforms. Unfortunately, Wilder’sheadnotes atthebeginningofeach selection areprimarilybiographical, offeringless insight tothereaderthan ifshehad simply stat­ ed whethereachpiece shouldbe read as fictionornonfiction. While the forms represented here are diverse, the voices seem strangely homoge­ neous. Never have I read so many thin rationalizations for women pursuing the wrong men, wistfuldescriptionsofthewaylightplays ondesertlandscapes, sadlittleritualsfor freeingoneselfofex-lovers, andstemsermonsaboutthevalueoftheenvironment. Some oftheobviouslynonfictionalpiecesleandangerouslytowardatoneofNew-Agedreami­ ness. InMerionMorriganSharp’sFull Circle, forexample, awomanexclaims, (without ashredofirony), ‘“OhGoddess, I hurt somuch!’” The few examples of fiction that do appear are quite remarkable, however. Ellen Winter’s “The PriceYouPay,” about a woman who escapes a bad marriage, is the kind of story that slides along so easily you hardly notice theneat structure, uncanny phras­ ing, andvividimagery, until youturnthelast page over, wishingthere were more. Each sentence reveals as it conceals: MyhusbandisaChristianman,Isay.Hedoesn’tbelieveinbirthcontrol. He choppedmydiaphragmintwoonourhoneymoon. I still rememberthewaythepiecesfell intothe snow. Anotherjewel is Phyllis...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 176-177
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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