There's Something in Backyard

Richard Snodgrass, Author Viking Books $19.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-670-82821-0
As this quirky modern fable begins, George Binns, laid-back English professor in Flagstaff, Ariz., finds what seems to be a masked Hopi Indian, with painted torso and feather-tipped staff, performing rituals in his backyard. Is this silent figure a kachina , or ancestral spirit, as local Hopis believe? Is it instead a flesh-and-blood Indian impersonator of a spirit, a prankster--or a tenure-crazed anthropologist? This enigma is only one of Binns's worries. His bitter wife, a transplanted New Yorker like himself, is a heavy drinker whom his cooing girlfriend keeps pressuring him to leave; and his best friend, who's involved with his wife, is dying of cancer, a tragedy that seems to have been presaged by the kachina 's sudden appearance. This debut novel is a haunting, seductive, original story that grips the heart and the imagination as it counterposes the rootlessness and alienation from nature of the white characters to the Indians' powerlessness in the prevailing American culture. Snodgrass interweaves his own sardonic, modernized retellings of Hopi legends into his tale of marital woe. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1989
Release date: 10/01/1989
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