by R. A. Lafferty ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 21, 1972
This curious and wonderful tall tale contributes to the apocalyptic re-vision of American history that began with Little Big Man and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. It's the tale of Hannali Innominee, a ""Mingo"" or natural lord of the 19th-century Choctaw Indians. Hannali is a capacious, indomitable giant of the ilk of Paul Bunyan or Mike Fink the Riverboatman -- an American folk hero. Yet he is all Indian, and in Mr. Lafferty's hands the best of both traditions yield an affinity. In one week, Hannali marries three women, an Indian, a black, and a white, and spawns a pan-human clan. He can build anything; never loses at gambling; has the bulk of a bear and the senses of a deer; is host and guest to all the great men of the Plains tribes; and sometimes communicates with other Choctaws by dream. The author might well say with Hannali, ""Of course I do with a big red heart I exaggerate."" But there is no exaggeration in the terrible history with which Hannali's saga is interwoven. This Lafferty tells straight: how the Choctaw nation, once removed, reconstituted itself and thrived in Indian territory (affording a glimpse of what a hybrid, live-and-let-live America might have been); how there came a schism between the rich, part-white, slave-owning, moneylending Choctaws and the ""feudal, compassionate, chauvinistic"" full-blooded freeholders like Hannali; and how, during the Civil War, the Indians were manipulated divide-and-conquer fashion into helping destroy each other. This history is gripping and complex in its own right, and Lafferty is wholly forgiven if Hannali's tale is occasionally more a pretext than an exemplar. He has an affectionate and unromantic admiration for the Indians, and his novel, from which one learns, is broad, boisterous, and sorrowful.
Pub Date: July 21, 1972
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1972
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