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.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1990 Release date: 03/01/1990 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.