The Ancient Child

Natachee Scott Momaday, Author, Pearl Bailey, Author, N. Scott Momaday, Author Doubleday Books $18.95 (270p) ISBN 978-0-385-27972-7
Admirers of Momaday's first novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning House Made of Dawn, will likely be disappointed with this second effort, an unwieldy assemblage of myth and traditional narrative that never gets off the ground. Set (aka Locke Setman) is a successful Native American artist living in California; he paints abstract landscapes, has an agent, flies to Paris, is self-involved. Grey is a beautiful Indian woman in her 20s who lives in the Southwest on sacred tribal ground. A practitioner of magic, she often transports herself back to the 1880s for no other purpose, it seems, than to act out her crush on Billy the Kid. Improbably, she manages to lure Set from his urban surroundings to his ancestral home, where she informs him of his sacred identity: ""The Bear."" Momaday's insistence on using an elemental palette and prophetic tone to tell the story--""To the grave of the grandmother Grey would take pollens and herbs and teas . . . and anoint the earthen mound and speak over it words that were sacred""--taxes a reader's patience. And the esthetic issues raised by the painter Set, simply drawn to begin with, are trivialized by their complete prostration to the supposed powers of myth. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1989
Release date: 09/01/1989
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-06-097345-2
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