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Bucking the Tiger Hardcover – Aug 2001

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (Aug 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374117276
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374117276
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.7 x 3.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,764,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Dec 2002
Format: Paperback
Bruce Olds has talent coming out his pores, and we see it on glorious display here in his intense imagery, poetic prose, and earnest attempt to recreate the psychology of Doc Holliday, who knew for fifteen years that he would die of tuberculosis. Unfortunately, all this talent does not add up to a great novel, or even a good one. With a main character about whom little primary information is available, the author resorts to mountains of repetition of the small details that are known in order to flesh out a novel-length story.
Over fifty pages, for example, iterate and then reiterate, in only slightly different words, Holliday's realization that he will die from the tuberculosis which killed his mother, along with the symptoms of the disease, various names for it, and other famous people who died from it. None of these advance Holliday's biography, nor do similarly long sections which list, among other things, various names for whiskey, alternative words for prostitutes, types of gambling games, and ways to cheat. Newspaper excerpts describing Holliday, and quotations from people who knew Wyatt Earp, his friend, while interesting in an academic sense, are more like research than story, and they are merely presented, not integrated into a whole. The inclusion of pages of Olds's poetry, along with his e. e. cummings-like manipulation of typefaces and spacing, feels artificial, more an attempt to elevate a flat story than part of a sensitive and carefully thought out novel.
While some readers praise the author's attempt to bring Doc Holliday to life through the presentation of this collage, a technique which Michael Ondaatje does brilliantly and successfully in his The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, this reader found it an attempt to wrap a hollow box in a pretty package. Mary Whipple
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 18 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Doc Holliday Shines Bright In The Shadow Of Death 2 Aug 2001
By Jeffrey J. Morey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In the popular imagination, John Henry Holliday is the fierce dark angel forever at Wyatt Earp's side. In "Bucking the Tiger", Bruce Olds tears away that public persona to reveal Holliday's ardent struggle to burn bright against the darkness. Doc Holliday's proclivities for dealing out death have been greatly exaggerated while his rage to live has gone mostly unnoticed. The reader follows Doc on his life's journey. We see John Henry's hurt and confused rage when, after his mother dies, his father remarries only a few months later. After he learns he is consumptive, we're with Doc as he goes West, takes up gambling and follows the professional circuit from Dallas to Deadwood, from Denver to Dodge City. We meet Wyatt Earp and travel to the dark and bloody town of Tombstone. We experience the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and its violent aftermath. Finally, we are there when Doc Holliday relinquishes his spirit with a quick drink and a wry joke. In covering Doc's story, Bruce Olds gives us more than just another historical novel. In this telling, Big Nose Kate Elder, Doc's inamorata, becomes a sustenance, an oasis of elan within Doc's ever diminishing life-world. When Holliday sojourned west, he didn't extend his life so much as prolong his death. "Bucking the Tiger" is thus a wide ranging reflection on mortality which refracts from Doc Holliday's life and legend back out again onto topics of universal concern. Near the end of the book, Doc writes that he "never intended for his life to resonate." But resonate it does, far beyond Doc Holliday's wildest imagination. Despite the dark subject matter, Olds provides remarkable outbursts of delightful humor. Old timer recollections of Doc are scattered throughout the book and many of these issue from characters in well known movies or TV shows. Steve McQueen's "Josh Randall" is identified as the author of "Fifty Years Spent Strapped to a Mare's-Leg". The "Mare's-Leg" being the odd sawed-off rifle McQueen lugged around on TV's "Wanted Dead or Alive". Few novels of any sort tackle profound questions with the adroitness of "Bucking the Tiger". Bruce Olds' way with the word is nothing short of miraculous. His command of history is nothing less than impressive. After this book, Doc Holliday will live on with the reader forever.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Poetic Tale of the Doc Holliday - Like None Before 10 Aug 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Prepare for a tale unlike any other about the life and times of John "Doc" Holliday. At first, the reader may be surprised at the prose Bruce Olds eloquently displays on the pages of Tiger. One becomes entwined in Doc's grand life and death struggle. The words flow beautifully and a tale spun of laughter, love, hatred, melancholy, murder and lust engage the reader. Unlike the formatted Western story, Bruce Olds displays a unique courage and often admits: readers will either hate it or love it. Tiger is like a poetic dance; one must first learn the steps and once that is accomplished, one is fulfilled. An excellent book and Old West Chronicle recommends this book fully, John Savoie, Editor-in-Chief.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A soaring success 1 Aug 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
..."Tiger" is not, nor was it intended to be, a "Western," not in any conventional sense of that word. Anyone who (fairly) reads the book will recognize that at once. This is something else--literature (capital "L"), and it is wildly successful. Gorgeously written, deeply felt, brilliantly executed, it excavates the tormented soul of a man who until now has been the public property of myth and legend. The novel imagines an entire, abundantly rich interior life for Doc Holliday, all the long-buried stuff the movies have never dared address because there really is no effective way to film such psychological/emotional states. Not that there isn't plenty of sex and violence along the way, but all that is handled--there is no other word for it--lyrically. ... Oh, and the poetry it contains is ... quite astonishingly beautiful.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Literary Fireworks 19 Nov 2001
By Jason Gregg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Olds goes for it, mixing present day idiom, old time-y western vernacular and a few words that are exotics. However the somteimes borderline stylings are used in an effective telling of an interesting tale. I do wonder how in describing Holliday's first kill, he selected "invaginating" to describe what the knife did to the victim. The victims guts can invaginate the blade, but not vice versa. Anyway, so what if Old's does seem to over work things a little at times, it's worth it for having a story that weaves together 19th century text book accounts of disease etiology with Doc's gambling rules and the rememberances of colorful characters.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Post-modern lit that slides toward self-help 12 Oct 2008
By fuwanna - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I had a prof in grad school who asked if James's Ambassadors (or any of his novels in his "late style") as well as Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom were really worth the effort required to read them. He didn't think so. I thought he was a moron then and, after rereading Absalom recently, I think he's an even bigger moron now.

The same question could be asked about Bucking the Tiger and, though I partly enjoyed it, I'm not so sure I can answer yes. If The Ambassadors and Absalom are demanding (though in no way TOO demanding), it's nevertheless impossible to imagine them being anywhere near the same novels in altered forms: their "meanings" arise from the total experience of reading, of making one's way through them. Not so with Bucking the Tiger, which is a much more static and allusive novel than either of the two classics I've mentioned. At virtually every point in Bucking we are hit with an abundance of associations, allusions, echoes, riffs. In this sense it is more poetic than novelistic: its meanings appearing rather than accruing, I'm tempted to say, synchronically rather than diachronically, metaphorically rather than metonymically.

And this is fine, and even enjoyable: this is the author's method and it makes perfect sense considering the novel's stance toward history and how we know it. But the problem I have with it is that these set pieces, these extended riffs on poker, for example, which are often blatantly metaphorical, simply don't strike me as being all that interesting. As long as I focused solely on the play of language it was all fine, but when I could no longer resist the insistence of its obvious "meaning" I was disappointed. All of the verbiage often simply added up to triteness, to almost self-helpy notions of chaos, mortality, writing etc. And there was no forward movement of plot to complicate these banalities.

Lurking beneath the poet in this novel is a somewhat pedantic essayist who too often gets the upper hand. I looked forward to the fractured form of the novel, to the linguistic abundance, but was rather disappointed that it didn't ultimately add up to something more besides announcing at every static moment its own importance--like some amped up professor in a cul de sac telling us what we already know. There is much less play in this novel than I would've supposed: we the readers are left with as little air as poor consumptive Doc, the author heavy upon us as Death.
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