This was my fourth or fifth reading of Refuge and it remains one of the two dozen or so books that means most to me. It weaves together place--a partThis was my fourth or fifth reading of Refuge and it remains one of the two dozen or so books that means most to me. It weaves together place--a part of the American West different than mine, but recognizable--spirit, science, and s sharp feminist sensibility that's uncompromising but not ideological. (No, Mormon feminism is not an oxymoron, though I'm sure that many Mormons would consider Williams' insistence that the Motherbody is as important as the Godhead heretical.
The core of Refuge is an ecological vision that encompasses nature, family, religion--we need all of the different approaches and angles of vision to apprehend the complexities of experience. No spoiler, but make sure you keep reading to the end, including the "epilog." I'm going to stop chattering and simply say that this is a book everyone should read....more
I first read House Made of Dawn in a 1970 class on modern American literature. The class had split, sometimes with great passion, into factions devoteI first read House Made of Dawn in a 1970 class on modern American literature. The class had split, sometimes with great passion, into factions devoted to either Hemingway or Faulkner, with the key issue amounting to something like "clarity vs. complexity." When we showed up for the first class on House Made of Dawn, both factions were sure Momaday was on "our side." And of course, we were both both right and wrong.
I start with that because I think it speaks to the importance of Momaday's brilliant first novel. At the time it was presented in large part as the first important novel by a Native American writer (a judgment that today requires a string of footnotes, but is in some sense defensible). True enough and, especially for Native readers, the novel's meditation on tradition and modernity remains as compelling as it ever was. Like Momaday's memoir Way to Rainy Mountain, House confronts the problems of Natives in adjusting to a world that doesn't see them in any kind of 3-D form, if it sees them at all. Enmeshed in that, Momaday makes ti clear that he understands his relationship to the broad tradition of American and modern literature. The sections set in LA--with the unforgettable "Priest of the Sun" Tomasah (like Momaday a Kiowa) at the center--riff on Rinehart from Ralph Ellison's Invisile Man in a specifically Native voice. The (Hemingwayesque) scenes between Abel and Angela shimmer with erotic power; and those between Abel and the Albino echo the metaphysical unspeakablenss of Melville's white whale.
And the writing itself, especially when Momaday centers on the southwestern landscape, is simply gorgeous.
If you're only going to read a couple of books by Native writers--and you're shortchanging yourself if that's where you stop--this should join Leslie Silko's Ceremony, Ray YoungBear's Remnants of the First Earth, and Vine Deloria's collection of essays Custer Died for Your Sins, at the top of the list. If you want more, my "Native American" shelf has plenty of suggestions....more
Didion's first book of essays established her as one of the smartest observers of the American character, especially as it unfolded against the backdrDidion's first book of essays established her as one of the smartest observers of the American character, especially as it unfolded against the backdrop of the Sixties. Deeply grounded in the Central Valley of California where she grew up, Didion triangulated the changes primarily from LA and New York, but the title essay, an absolute classic, focuses on San Francisco during the period when the mythic Summer of Love was descending into thirty different types of chaos. Along with that one, the highlights for me are the introspective pieces "On Keeping a Notebook," "On Self-Respect," and "On Morality," each of them an "essay" in Montagne's sense of an attempt to write one's way into understanding. As the title, taken from Yeats' "The Second Coming" (written about the Russian revolution and later edited into "universality"), indicates, Didion's unsure whether she's watching the birth of something new and wonderful or simply living her way into chaos.
I hadn't remember how much of the book's about California, but she does a terrific job capturing the tension between the culture of the old families and small communities and the subdivided nightmares sweeping them out of memory....more
A strange mix of things done very well--the Nebraska setting, about 75% of the characterization--and some things that drove me nuts--primarily the cloA strange mix of things done very well--the Nebraska setting, about 75% of the characterization--and some things that drove me nuts--primarily the clockwork appearance of melodramatic scenes, many of them telegraphed to some extent. Some odd gaps in the treatment of male/female relationships. Feels a bit like Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha written in an (appropriately) subdued midwestern voice. I'll definitely read his next (To Be Sung Underwater)....more