TOUCHING THE FIRE

BUFFALO DANCERS, THE SKY BUNDLE, AND OTHER TALES

Folklorist, widely published and broadcast essayist Welsch— who was adopted into the Omaha Tribe in 1967—reveals much love and knowledge of Plains Indian people and their spiritual life, but skilled fiction writing still eludes him in his 16th book and second collection (It's Not the End of the Earth, But You Can See It from Here, 1990). The first of the seven linked stories takes place in the year 2001, when members of the invented Nehawka tribe outwit a racist museum director and retrieve their sacred Sky Bundle. The stories move backwards in time until the historic origin of the bundle, the symbolic objects it contains, and the sometimes otherworldly events they commemorate are all revealed. By the end, the logic-oriented reader is led to appreciate that cultural fragments strewn through the text may seem irrational taken out of context but, in fact, are meaningful and make sense. The opening pieces, concerned with contemporary political issues, are more problematic: characters rarely transcend stereotype, and affirmative endings seem forced— as when a violent racist ex-drug-dealer turned bounty-hunter tracks down two young Indians who've jumped bail after an arrest for distributing sacramental peyote; exposure to their innate nobility and religious conviction transforms him; he helps them beat the rap, marries the young woman, and throws in his lot with the Nehawka. Welsch opens with a passionately partisan and moving essay about the religious persecution of Native American peoples; the stories themselves, while well-intentioned and offering interesting detail, remain heavy-handed and unconvincing.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-679-40887-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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