Synopses & Reviews
This anthology, gathered and introduced by distinguished western scholar Thomas J. Lyon, offers the panoramic literary range of the American West, from the romance of the mythic Wild West to the present-day creative explosion of the real, diverse West.
The real West has been written about since first contact in the sixteenth century, in the diaries of explorers ranging from Franciscan missionary Pedro Font to Lewis and Clark. A Native American tradition of cultural expression preceded European settlers by thousands of years, and today a contemporary Native renaissance in fiction includes writers N. Scott Momaday and Linda Hogan. The naturalist John Muir stands at the beginning of a lineage of western nature writers, and successors including Mary Austin, Edward Abbey, and Rick Bass have raised ecological awareness of the West.
Over the past century, there has also been a tremendous drive in western fiction to cut through the mythology spread by the "dime novels" that gained popularity in the 1860s; Owen Wister's The Virginian and Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage presented a simplified and heroic West that would hold sway in the public imagination until serious novelists like Willa Cather, John Steinbeck, and Wallace Stegner established a shadow country to the mythic frontier. Today, works coming from ethnic minority writers including Amy Tan, Denise Chavez, and Rudolph Anaya have helped bring the real, diverse West to light. This authoritative and adventuresome collection shows why the West has occupied such a prominent place in the national consciousness, and reveals that western writers may currently be mapping out a significant development in American thought.
The story of western literature is the story of two Wests, the one immediately and deeply persuasive, the second more complex in its intentions and effects. This anthology, gathered and introduced by distinguished western scholar Thomas J. Lyon, offers the panoramic literary range of the American West, from the romance of the mythic Wild West to the present day creative explosion of the real, diverse West. With more than forty selections, including essays, short stories, poetry, excerpts from novels and diaries, and a complete play, The Literary West ranges from the early explorers to the greatest twentieth-century authors. The West has offered a compelling set of images the rider and his horse, the wide-brimmed hat, the sea of grass, the view to the far mesa, the war-bonneted Indian but the selections Lyon gathers here show the region is much more than cowboys and scenery.
Gathered and introduced by a distinguished western scholar, this book offers the panoramic literary range of the American West, from the romance of the mythic Wild West to the modern explosion with the real West.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -437) and index.
About the Author
Thomas J. Lyon
is Professor Emeritus
of English at Utah State University and former President of the Western Literature Association.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Conquistador, the Lone Ranger, and Beyond
A Western Chronology, With 200 Significant Titles
Kathlamet Chinook (oral tradition)
"The Sun's Myth"
Pedro Font [Ventura to Santa Barbara in 1776],
from Pedro Font's Diary
Lewis and Clark [North Dakota journals from the spring of 1805],
from The Journals of Lewis and Clark
John Muir "Through the Foothills with a Flock of Sheep,"
from My First Summer in the Sierra
Clarence Dutton "The Valley of the Virgen,"
from Tertiary History of the Grand Canon District
from Life Among the Piutes
Hamlin Garland "Under the Lion's Paw,"
from Main Traveled Roads
from The Virginian
Mary Austin "My Neighbor's Field,"
from The Land of the Little Rain
Jack London "All Gold Canyon,"
from Moon-face and Other Stories
from Riders of the Purple Sage
from O Pioneers!
from My Antonia
from The Wind
"Granite and Cypress"
Luther Standing Bear "Nature,"
from Land of the Spotted Eagle
John Steinbeck Chapters 1, 2, and 3,
from The Grapes of Wrath
A.B. Guthrie, Jr. Chapters 31 and 32,
from The Big Sky
Jack Schaefer Chapter 1,
Frank Waters "Hopi Ceremonialism,"
from Masked Gods
Jose Antonio Villarreal
"In Response to a Question"
"Representing Far Places"
N. Scott Momaday "Introduction" to
The Way to Rainy Mountain
Al Young "Dancing,"
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston Chapter 4,
from Farewell to Manzanar
Edward Abbey "The Great American Desert,"
from The Journey Home
Wallace Stegner Part 2, chapter 5,
Rudolfo Anaya "B. Traven Is Alive and Well in Cuernavaca,"
from The Anaya Reader
"Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout"
Gretel Ehrlich "On Water,"
from The Solace of Open Spaces
Louis L'Amour Chapter 16,
from Last of the Breed
Denise Chavez "The Last of the Menu Girls,"
from The Last of the Menu Girls
"The Poplar's Shadow"
"Camping in Madera Canyon"
Charles Bowden "Afterword"
from Frog Mountain Blues
Amy Tan "Waverly Jong: Rules of the Game,"
from The Joy Luck Club
Terry Tempest Williams "Snowy Plovers"
William Kittredge "Reimagining Warner,"
from Heart of the Land
Rick Bass "Days of Heaven,"
from In The Loyal Mountains
Barbara Kingsolver "Why I Am a Danger to the Public,"
from Homeland and Other Stories
Linda Hogan "Creations,"
from Heart of the Land
Guide to Further Reading