PRAIRIE CITY by Angie Debo


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An idiosyncratic insight into the evolution of one of this country's most mythic areas, the 19th-century Oklahoma Territory. Published in 1944 by Knopf, the book was out of print for 20 years before being reissued by two smaller presses. Extolled by contemporary critics as an epic of major proportions, the work undoubtedly seemed revolutionary for its conciseness during times that favored romance over chronicle. Now, however, it is somewhat thin, both physically and qualitatively. The author writes as if she has a great deal to record, yet doesn't want to do so through conventional non-fiction style. So she takes her facts and weaves them through the lives of fictional characters designed as icons of settlers who established and inhabited the town of Prairie City. The prose is similar to that of Daniel Defoe, with its tallying of events and figures and systematic categorization of physical articles. Unlike the work of the 18th-century master, however, there is no lyricism in the writing, a liability which would not have been notable had Debo avoided the use of effusive images such as ""grassy swells,"" ""prairie scattered horsemen"" and ""vanished buffalo. ""Despite the book's literary problems, it is obvious that Debo, now 95 with a Ph.D. in history, has a thorough command of her subject. What is even more apparent is her strong emotional attachment to the Americana that she is documenting. Prairie City is the work of a historian, not a writer, and should be approached and appreciated in that context. It is definitely not "". . .And Ladies Of the Club.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Council Oak (1428 S. St. Louis, Tulsa, OK 74120)