WRITERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE: An Anthology of Recent Western Writing by Russell & Marc Barasch--Eds. Martin

WRITERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE: An Anthology of Recent Western Writing

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Confining themselves to ""the interior, intermountain West"" (not California, not Texas), the editors here have assembled stories, chapters-from-novels, memoirs, and essays--reflecting, according to the platitudinous introduction, ""an emphatic literature that views its subject matter as the poignant and ordinary events of human lives."" Unsurprisingly, sentimentality and a certain solemn posturing are the drawbacks of this 19-piece collection, which leaves out such exemplary ""Western"" writers as Max Schott and John Keeble. The best of the non-fiction is an excerpt from Ivan Doig's This House of Sky (1978); much weaker is an under-par Edward Abbey memoir, ""Cape Solitude,"" about a retreat to a favorite spot. Of the fiction, only one of the notable entries--Rick DeMarinis' stark weedkiller tale, ""Weeds""--hasn't appeared in book form before; from recent collections come evocative, sentimental title stories by David Long (a trucker's accident in ""Home Fires"") and William Kittredge (a bear-hunting couple in ""We Are Not in This Together""). And most impressive of all are the excerpts from James Welch's Winter in the Blood and Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima--with, in the latter, credible, ritualistic treatment of the theme of knowledge passing from generation to generation. (A father/son hunting story by David Quammen offers a contrived variation on this recurring motif.) Also including less impressive work from Thomas McGuane, Richard Ford, Elizabeth Tallent, John Nichols, and Robert Mayer: an earnest but far-from-fresh anthology--with familiar material providing almost all the highlights.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Viking