Frederick's Reviews > The Outcasts of Poker Flat

The Outcasts of Poker Flat by Bret Harte
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Jan 18, 08

bookshelves: stories, harte
Recommended for: Fans of American Literature and the Western.
Read in March, 1996

Bret Harte was contemporaneous with Mark Twain. THE OUTCASTS OF POKER FLAT is a collection of stories about mining camps of the sort which existed in great numbers in Harte's lifetime. Beneath the sentimentalism and racial stereotyping there is an understanding of rough-and-tumble loners. One could argue that the theme here is the state of being outcast.
If you read nothing else in this book, take a half-hour of your time to read the story "The Luck of Roaring Camp." A baby is born in a mining camp, giving purpose to the lives of the panhandlers, vagrants and ruffians who make up the population. Harte draws frankly on the story of Moses, something Twain would have been loath to do.
These stories anticipate every variation of the Western, and Harte bests every practitioner, from Zane Grey to John Ford to Sergio Leone.
He was a miniaturist, making him different from his disciples, for whom bloviation was a byword for sincerity.
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