Kesey (Sailor Song 1992, etc.) has written a historical western that amusingly mixes fact and fiction to tell the politically correct story of a multiracial trio of cowboys who achieve a state of spiritual harmony that transcends cultural differences. The author heard the true story of the first Pendleton Round-Up, a world champion rodeo competition, from his father while sitting around a campfire when he was 14. Kesey decided to elaborate on what he had been told by using his imagination rather than any documents he might find combing through "musty archives." Last Go Round, then, tells the story of three men — local black cowboy George Fletcher, the Nez Perce Indian Jackson Sundown, originally from Idaho, and Johnathan E. Lee Spain, a white teenager from Tennessee — who become close friends during their quest for the championship broncobusting title in 1911. Fletcher and Sundown are considerably older and more experienced than Spain, yet they treat the younger man as a professional and emotional equal, giving this coming-of-age tale a sweet-natured, poignant tone. Basically plotless, the novel tracks the three men through their various — and often comical — rodeo performances, also following their romantic shenanigans and their run-ins with the underhanded Buffalo Bill Cody and their arch-nemesis, the menacingly muscular wrestler Frank Gotch. Although much of the dialogue is written in a charmingly primitive vernacular style, the novel's overall philosophy is a kind of contemporary enlightened humanism, where women and minorities are treated, for the most part, as emancipated equals of their white male counterparts. With co-writer Babbs (On the Bus, not reviewed), Kesey relishes the chance to create a revisionist view of a particular time and place in American history, using the anchor of a real-life event (documented in 16 pages of b&w photos of the actual Pendleton Round-Up) to substantiate his delightfully entertaining vision of goodness triumphing over evil.

Pub Date: July 1, 1994

ISBN: 0140176675

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1994

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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