Robert Lewis Taylor OLIVER La FARGE - Essay

OLIVER La FARGE

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Let not the size of ["The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters"] dismay you. It is a small-scale "Anthony Adverse" of the California gold rush with touches of "Huckleberry Finn," a lively, often funny, picaresque tale that conveys a real feel of what it must have been like on the immigrant trails and in the gold fields, and only occasionally does the story become too long. The publisher's blurb stresses the author's "meticulously researched facts," and he himself appends a bibliography of nigh on to 150 titles, but he is too good a novelist to let mere facts stand in the way of a good story.

Considering the enjoyment this reviewer had from the book, he should not carp at minor faults, but a few comments must be made. On the score of "meticulous research," it is odd to find Algonkian words in the mouths of Caddoan-speaking Pawnees, or an Indian Maiden whom the Algonkian Cheyennes of Minnesota called by a New Mexico Tewa name.

Yes indeed, there is an Indian Maiden. One of the charms of this book is its unabashed use exclusively of stock characters. There are Bad Indians who are cowardly, do not wash, and stink. There are Good Indians, who are brave, generous and well scrubbed. Jaimie's father is that old standby, the brilliant, highly educated, charming ne'er-do-well, whose weaknesses keep himself and his son in the state of motion necessary to maintain the story while he enables the author to make comments of which Jamie...

(The entire section is 454 words.)