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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars For diehard McMurtry fans only, 6 Dec. 2002
Amazon Customer (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
I'm on record stating that LONESOME DOVE is the greatest fictional story of the Old West that I've ever encountered, and the 1989 film adaptation is one of my very favorite movies of all time. Therefore, it was with more than a little giddy anticipation that I picked up Larry McMurtry's SACAGAWEA'S NICKNAME, a collection of his essays on the American West.
The twelve chapters in this short (178 pages) hardback cover diverse topics, the unifying thread being McMurtry's insight into what has shaped, for better or worse, the modern public's perception of our nation's frontier heritage. He does this by examining the influence of some well-known icons - Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Zane Grey, Lewis and Clark, and Sacagawea - as well as some that are perhaps not so widely famous - authors Patricia Limerick and Janet Lewis, historian James Wilson, geologist John Wesley Powell, and anthropologists Frank Cushing and Matilda Stevenson.
Because of the great pleasure I've derived from McMurtry's novels, I looked forward to what I hoped would be a series of humorous, scintillatingly clever, and informative insights. It pains me to say that I found the volume as a whole to be somewhat lackluster. His chapter on Buffalo Bill was rambling, and the one on the Zuni tribe and the anthropologists who studied it too esoteric. His criticism of Western pulpmeister Zane Grey so lacked definition that I can't say even now what McMurtry's objection to the former is except perhaps that he wasn't capable of editing his own prose (but left it to his wife). His essay on John Wesley Powell was positively boring. And, except that Janet Lewis is apparently one of McMurtry's favorite writers, I cannot fathom why the author included a chapter on her at all. Perhaps it's because she lives in the West. Only the chapters on the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the second to last that lends its title to the book, provided any return on my investment of time and money. Lastly, McMurtry's dry humor was all too infrequent...
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Sacagawea's Nickname: Essays on the American West (NYRB Collection)
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