Silver Light

David Thomson, Author
David Thomson, Author Alfred A. Knopf $19.95 (333p) ISBN 978-0-394-55622-2
Reviewed on: 03/01/1990
Release date: 03/01/1990
Thomson's rangy metafictional collage blends figures from history and legend as well as characters from Hollywood films in an endlessly inventive cinematic meditation on the American West. Two characters dominate the novel's foreground: a Georgia O'Keeffe-like figure, photographer Susan Garth, shrewd, cantankerous, reclusive, and still self-reliant at 80, and her longtime friend Bark Blaylock, a western writer/filmmaker who may be Wyatt Earp's son. A subplot involves James Averill, a wealthy Easterner who sees his philandering as a frontiersman's quest for knowledge. As the time frame shuttles between 1950 and the late 1800s, we meet Susan's father, a gentlemanly cattle rancher who reads Thomas Hardy, and serves as a springboard to the Old West of Bat Masterson, Geronimo and Billy the Kid. The cast includes Willa Cather, Montgomery Clift, Charles Ives, Judge Roy Bean and numerous characters smuggled in from such movies as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Thomson's ( Suspects ) artfully juxtaposes the brimming frontier of legend against a construct of the West as a constricted wilderness of the soul. (Mar.)
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