WAY OUT WEST by Jane Stern


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 And somewhere out in left field, too: The Sterns' new addition to their popular volumes of Americana (The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste, Sixties People, Elvis World, etc.) tackles ``the West of the imagination''--the West mythologized by dime novels, TV, and films; populated by singing cowboys who kiss their horses, Indians who raise their right hands and say ``How,'' and pesky ``critters'' like rattlesnakes and scorpions; and redolent with the scent of hot chili and chicken-fried steak. The husband-and-wife team do their usual entertaining job of rounding up this retrograde West-- providing plenty of lore on rodeos, natural wonders, ``equine superstars'' (the rumor is true: Trigger is indeed stuffed and on display at the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Victoryville, California, along with Bullet the Wonder Dog and Dale's horse, Buttermilk), lariat-throwing, proper cowboy dinners, and so on. But to pretend--other than in a few paragraphs--that this West isn't a mirage floating above a sea of oppression and bloodshed, and to celebrate this phantasmagorical vision, seems akin to celebrating the Old South without reference to the slavery that sustained it. Moreover, the author's survey leaves out several crucial, if less cute, elements of the Western myth. Astonishingly, there's no discussion of outlaws here--no Billy the Kid, no Jesse James; there's no survey of the black cowboys who rode alongside the whites (and who do figure in the myth, as in Woody Strode's many Western film roles); and while the Sterns chronicle the stereotyped representation of Indians, they offer no survey of more real, and equally enduring, images of Indians, as in the film A Man Called Horse. All in all, then, a lopsided, outdated guide, best suited for those who still think that Custer died with his boots on. (Photographs--200 b&w and 300 color)

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1993
ISBN: 0-06-016873-0
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1993


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