Paul Horgan Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

ph_0111207089-Horgan.jpg Paul Horgan Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Throughout his long and meritorious career, Paul Horgan was known as widely for his short fiction and nonfiction as for his novels. Most of his short fiction is found in three collections, but the best of his stories appear in The Peach Stone: Stories from Four Decades (1967). Like his fiction, Horgan’s histories and biographies revolve around events and people of the American Southwest. His most prestigious history is Great River: The Rio Grande in North American History (1954), but The Centuries of Santa Fe (1956) and Conquistadors in North American History (1963) are also important works. His biographies, most notably Lamy of Santa Fé: His Life and Times (1975) and Josiah Gregg and His Visions of the Early West (1979), vividly chronicle the struggle of individuals and the clash of Spanish and American Indian cultures on the southwestern frontier. Horgan’s work in drama includes the play Yours, A. Lincoln (pr. 1942) and the libretto to A Tree on the Plains: A Music Play for Americans (pb. 1943), an American folk opera with music by Ernst Bacon. His Approaches to Writing (1973) is composed of three long essays explaining his craft. Horgan’s novel A Distant Trumpet was filmed in 1964; Things as They Are was filmed in 1970.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

As a novelist as well as a distinguished writer of nonfiction, Paul Horgan devoted his career to the American Southwest. Although he is regarded as a regionalist, some critics have rightly pointed out that he uses regional figures and settings essentially as vehicles for universal themes, much as William Faulkner used regional materials. Horgan’s work should not be identified with the popular, formulaic Western writing of such authors as Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, and Max Brand; rather, he should be seen as a significant figure in the tradition of literary Western fiction that has attracted the attention of critics and readers since the early 1960’s.

Recognition for Horgan’s writing came in many forms. He won seventy-five hundred dollars in the Harper Prize Novel Contest for The Fault of Angels in 1933. He was awarded two Guggenheim fellowships (1945 and 1958) to work on his nonfiction. For Great River, Horgan won the Pulitzer Prize in history and the Bancroft Prize of Columbia University. In 1957, the Campion Award for eminent service to Catholic letters was presented to him. The Western Literature Association paid tribute to Horgan with its distinguished Achievement Award (1973), and the Western Writers of America cited him with their Silver Spur Award (1976). He was twice honored by the Texas Institute of Letters (1954 and 1971).

Just as important as these awards, and an indication of the wide range of Horgan’s...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Erisman, Fred. “Western Regional Writers and the Uses of Place.” Journal of the West 19 (1980): 36-44. Reprinted in The American Literary West, edited by Richard W. Etulain. Manhattan, Kans.: Sunflower University Press, 1980. Placing Horgan in the company of Willa Cather, John Steinbeck, and John Graves, this article presents Horgan’s writings as among those which meet the challenge of Ralph Waldo Emerson for artists to use the most American of materials, the experience of the West.

Gish, Robert. Nueva Granada: Paul Horgan and the Southwest. College Station: Texas A & M Press, 1995. Contains short commentaries on Horgan’s work and, more important, two illuminating interviews with the author.

Gish, Robert. Paul Horgan. Boston: Twayne, 1983. Horgan’s writing is not merely regionalist, but moves from East to West and back again. Covers Horgan as novelist, short-story writer, historian, and essayist. Includes a chronology, notes and references, a selected, annotated bibliography, and an index.

Gish, Robert. “Paul Horgan.” In A Literary History of the American West. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1987. Horgan receives a chapter in this important book of literary scholarship which assesses his place in American literary history as attached to the materials of Southwest regionalism, but often lifted above their limitations by his skill. Contains a selected bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Kraft, James. “No Quarter Given: An Essay on Paul Horgan.” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 80 (July, 1976): 1-32. Represents the pattern of Horgan’s life movements as a special twentieth century American phenomenon—the possibility for a creative life in the United States. Horgan is both a writer and a painter, but also a public servant without fear of the tragic or the brutal in life. His work and his life are affirmed through the creative process.

Pilkington, William T. “Paul Horgan.” In My Blood’s Country: Studies in Southwestern Literature. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1973. Although Horgan has been a prolific writer in a variety of forms, his best work reveals an understanding of human desires and disappointments as expressed in the concrete details of lived experience. Besides Christian values, his writing expresses features of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s transcendental philosophy.