America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 24-26.

 

Huffaker, Clair.  Nobody Loves a Drunken Indian.  New York: McKay, 1967.

When Nobody Loves a Drunken Indian was published in 1967, Huffaker had already established himself as a novelist and screenwriter who could remain fundamentally true to the Western formula while cleverly manipulating some of its elements to give each story a winning combination of familiarity and freshness.  In Nobody Loves a Drunken Indian, he attempted something quite different: a contemporary rendering of the frontier tall tale that, in context, would come across as farcical rather than mythic.  Such a story would, in effect, provide a satiric perspective on the Western mythos—in particular, on the treatment of the Native Americans and of the natural environment.

The novel was a success, and Huffaker wrote the screenplay for its film adaptation, which starred Anthony Quinn.  But it is telling that the title of the film was changed to Flap.  Some reviewers and readers of the novel seemed to have missed the irony in Huffaker’s title, as well as the satire in the novel.  Even some of those who appreciated Huffaker’s intention felt that, as written, the novel more exploited than undercut disparaging stereotypes of Native Americans.  Yet, like Dan Cushman’s Stay Away, Joe, Huffaker’s novel has suffered from the perception that it is presumptuous for an Anglo-American to write about Native Americans, or any other oppressed group, from their point of view.

 

Humphrey, William.  The Ordways.  New York: Knopf, 1967.

A native of East Texas, William Humphrey straddled the Southern and Western traditions in contemporary American fiction.  His first novel, Home from the Hill (1958) was widely acclaimed for its Faulknerian characters and themes.  But, in his second novel, The Ordways, Humphrey moved geographically beyond the Deep South and fictionally beyond the Faulkner’s influence.

A comic chronicle of the quests undertaken by four generations of Ordways. Carefully structured, with intricate parallels and counterpoints developed between its characters and incidents, the novel is divided into three major sections.  Blinded at Shiloh, Thomas Ordway nonetheless manages to lead his family, along with the remains and gravestones of his ancestors, from Tennessee to Texas.  Thomas’ son, Sam, then undertakes an extended but futile quest into the far reaches of Texas to recover his son, Ned, who has been abducted by neighbors.  Ultimately, however, Ned does reappear and takes his family on a long journey westward to his isolated sheep ranch.  Humphrey manages to exploit just about every popular myth associated with the frontier and Western settlement—sometimes blatantly but often very subtly.  Likewise, although it is expansive and even elastic, the narrative remains on some levels an intimate portrait of individuals related by blood and connected by their obsessions.

 

Johnson, Dorothy M.  Indian Country.  New York: Ballantine, 1953.

Montana writer Dorothy M. Johnson produced several highly regarded collections of short stories, including Indian Country, early in her career, several notable works of nonfiction in the middle years of her career, and several well-received novels late in her career.  Indian County includes ten stories, nine of which treat the tensions between Native Americans and White settlers.  (The one story concerned with other issues is “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” which was adapted into a well-known film directed by John Ford and starring Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, and Lee Marvin.)  Four of the nine stories are told from the points of view of Native American characters, and five from the perspectives of White characters, exhibiting Johnson’s consistent interest in considering events from all sides.

The most well known of the nine stories is undoubtedly “A Man Called Horse.”  Told from the point of view of an Englishman captured by the Crow and gradually assimilated into their tribe, the story is technically told from a White point of view. Yet, the main character’s cultural background ultimately serves primarily as a counterpoint to the aspects of Native American culture that he adopts as he is gradually accepted by the Crow.  The novel was adapted to a commercially and critically successful film starring Richard Harris.

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Previous Posts in This Series:

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 1-2: https://academeblog.org/2014/09/10/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-1-2/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 3-5: https://academeblog.org/2014/09/16/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-3-5/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 6-8: https://academeblog.org/2014/09/20/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-6-8/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 9-11: https://academeblog.org/2014/10/04/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-9-11/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 12-14: https://academeblog.org/2014/10/12/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-12-14/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 15-17: https://academeblog.org/2014/10/21/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-15-17/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 18-20: https://academeblog.org/2014/11/02/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-18-20/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 21-23: https://academeblog.org/2014/11/09/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-21-23/

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Posts in the Previous Series:

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 1-3: https://academeblog.org/2014/05/30/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-1-3/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 4-5: https://academeblog.org/2014/05/31/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-4-5/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 6-7: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/01/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-6-7/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 8-10: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/04/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-8-10/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 11-13: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/06/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-11-13/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 14-16: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/11/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-14-16/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 17-19: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/18/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-17-19/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 20-22: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/25/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-20-22/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 23-25: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/07/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-23-25/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 26-29: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/11/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-26-29/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 30-32: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/23/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-30-32/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 33: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/29/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-33/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 34-36: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/10/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-34-36/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 37-39: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/15/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-37-39/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 40-42: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/21/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-40-42/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 43-45: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/23/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-43-45/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 46-48: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/26/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-46-48/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 49-50: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/30/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-49-50/

 

11 thoughts on “America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 24-26.

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