Sunday, December 5, 2010

On "Mary’s Twenty" by Steele Campbell (4076 words) ***

I can't say I've read many westerns. The Oxbow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark is the only thing that comes to mind, and that I read largely on the recommendation of Wallace Stegner, based on an essay he wrote in When Bluebirds Sing from Lemonade Springs. That novel, however, was good, so it's a shame I haven't come back more aggressively to the genre. Perhaps it's that western movies don't appeal to me, and so by extension the stories don't seem like they'd hold much more interest. Yet there's something about the Old West that translates better in writing than in film for me. I tend not to like costume dramas--some leap of imagination that asks me to accept camera usage before the existence of cameras won't come to me. Written out, there's no such problem.

Steele Campbell's story is a simple one that could be told in the Old South as easily as it could be in the West. In fact, I see elements of the poor folk of Erskine Caldwell here. It's a story about a family gone out to work a farm for a day and about how a girl ends up in a miserable marriage and what that means both to her father and to herself. File this one under stories of lazy bums, after you read it here at Rope and Wire.

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