A Walk Toward Oregon: A Memoir

Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., Author
Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., Author Alfred A. Knopf $27.5 (352p) ISBN 978-0-375-40910-3
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Paperback - 333 pages - 978-0-8061-3371-3
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Returning from harrowing service as a Marine combat correspondent, Josephy began an autobiographical novel in which he ""let off a lot of steam and personal passion."" He abandoned it halfway through--perhaps the reason we now have his thoughtful, understated, engrossing memoir. Born into an affluent, well-connected New York family in 1915, but a Harvard dropout after two years when the Depression left him without tuition money, Josephy went on to live by his wits, his connections, his courage. He writes of early radio, investigative journalism, prewar Hollywood and the battle for Iwo Jima, then of postwar false starts followed by success as an author (The Civil War in the American West) and with American Heritage magazine. Finally, he finds the cause of his life in promoting American Indian rights plundered over two centuries, and in rehabilitating Native history (The Indian Heritage of America). The ""walk toward Oregon"" metaphor is somewhat forced throughout, but it becomes a reality when the author acquires a ranch near the appropriately named town of Joseph. The bulk of the book, on Josephy's many lives in the 1930s and early 1940s, is wryly and sensitively written, and his graphic Pacific War accounts are possibly the best in the genre since William Manchester's Goodbye Darkness. Few memoirs evoking American dreams and realities have the atmosphere of genuineness conveyed by this one, published as Josephy approaches 85. 25 b&w photos. (Feb.)
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