THE FIGHTING HORSE OF THE STANISLAUS by Dan De Quille

THE FIGHTING HORSE OF THE STANISLAUS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

De Quille was a 19th-century western humorist who worked the same veins as Mark Twain did, and at the same time. Now comes an anthology, with a critical apparatus, that consists of journalism, literary hoaxes, and a few stories--sometimes fresh and humorous, sometimes run-of-the-mill. Laissez-faire prevailed among these early journalists, as it did also among the first generation of western prospectors and settlers who comprised both audience and subject for De Quille's pen. The first section here--""Hoaxes, Humor and Practical Jokes""--is notable for the reprinting (mainly in very short sketches) of a running hoax concerning a full-grown silver man discovered in a tunnel. The second part--""History and Descriptions""--is exact in its observations and tends to be light in tone, though ""Trailing a Lost Child"" captures a front-page pathos as well as any contemporary account, ""Colorful Characterizations"" is full of eccentrics or the downright mentally ill (""A Dietetic Don Quixote""), as well as regional noteworthies (""Rev. Olympus Jump,"" about a preacher who uses mining vernacular to convert). ""Legends and Folklore,"" the fourth section, is best for ""Peter Crow Among the Witches,"" a good ghost stoW; and the last section, ""Stories,"" contains the most complete pieces--in particular the title story about animal fights, and ""An Indian Story of the Sierra Madre,"" an elegiac tale about the end of the West's wildest days. A worthwhile book for those who want to learn about the writerly milieu that produced Mark Twain, but De Quille, who apparently inspired some of Twain's early work, is more a reminder of Twain's writerly origins than a figure of lasting interest.

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 1990
Publisher: Univ. of Iowa Press