American Character: The Curious Life of Charles Fletcher Lummis and the ....

Mark Thompson, Author Arcade Publishing $27.95 (372p) ISBN 978-1-55970-550-9
Thompson, whose work has appeared in several eminent publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Atlantic Monthly and the New Republic, paints an honest, vivid portrait of a man whose life was nothing short of cinematic. Charles Lummis (1859-1928) author, journalist, editor, photographer, adventurer and fervent champion of Indian rights did more than capture the spirit of the Southwest at the turn of the century; he preserved its dignity and Native American tradition, even while his own dignity was called into question as the result of personal scandals and financial woes. It all began in 1885, when Lummis walked from Cincinnati to Los Angeles 3,507 miles to begin his writing career with the Los Angeles Times. He would go on to edit the highly popular magazine Out West, write poetry and books, teach himself photography and guitar, undertake an archeological expedition to Peru, become head librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library, keep a consistent diary and pen tens of thousands of letters not even allowing partial paralysis and blindness to hinder his productivity. A human dynamo who worked and socialized to excess, Lummis dedicated his writing and his enthusiasm to fighting racial violence, intolerance and discrimination. Thanks to his fond affiliation with Theodore Roosevelt, Lummis became a force in reshaping national Indian policy. Scholars have been quick to discredit his achievements because of his often inflated ego, obsession with sex, eccentric dress and demeanor, and lapses in common sense at crucial strategic moments but Thompson exalts Lummis's vital accomplishments without covering up any of his flaws. The result is a compulsively engaging and spirited biography detailing the rise and fall of a man as colorful as he was influential. (Mar.) Forecast: This is a natural sell in the Southwest, including southern California where the author will make publicity appearances and among readers of western history and Native American affairs wherever they reside.
Reviewed on: 03/01/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
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