New York Review of Books. "/>

SACAGAWEA'S NICKNAME: Essays on the American West

Larry McMurtry, Author, L. McMurtry, Author . New York Review $19.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-940322-92-9

The literature and the reality of the American West collide in these 12 brilliant and wide-ranging essays, originally published in the New York Review of Books. Pulitzer winner and bestselling novelist McMurtry (Lonesome Dove; etc.) rhapsodizes over an impressively eclectic array of subjects and styles, from his poetic-historical meditation on the Missouri River to his determined but sympathetic deconstruction of Western mythology. Two of the best essays focus on the Lewis and Clark expedition; after reading the pioneering duo's newly published journals, McMurtry pronounces their adventure "the first American epic." Two other essays directly confront the almost uniformly tragic experience of Native Americans in the West; in "Zuni Tunes," McMurtry devastatingly critiques the impact that anthropologists—"bloodsucking leeches"—have had on the famously unique Arizona tribe. Perhaps the most amusing piece is "Pulpmaster," a bemused ode to western pulp novelists like Zane Grey, whose prodigious output McMurtry ascribes to a kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder: "The sufferers can't really write well, but they can't stop writing, either." Each of these essays is sharp, intelligent, sincere and winkingly funny—in other words, vintage McMurtry. With penetrating wit he notes that Custer's death was "his most glorious career move." For fascinating characters, there is We'wha, the male Zuni transvestite who met President Grover Cleveland in 1885 and became the "hit of the social season." Not every piece succeeds perfectly, of course: McMurtry's musings on water use in the West are (unsurprisingly) somewhat dry, while his loving, elegiac essay about the forgotten writer Janet Lewis feels like an orphan from another book. Overall, however, this collection is a fine performance from a man who, excepting perhaps Cormac McCarthy, is our most talented and important chronicler of the West. (Nov)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 06/01/2003
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.