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The Ancient Child: A Novel Paperback – September 12, 1990

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A tour-de-force of clarity and brilliance."-- "San Francisco Chronicle""An intriguing combination of myth, fiction, and storytelling that demonstrates the continuing power and range of Momaday's creative vision . . . As Momaday's vision unfolds, the reader recognizes storytelling that is coninuous and timeless . . .These are magical words. Listen."-- "Washington Post""Some of the finest writing about the plains I've ever read..."The Ancient Child" comes as close to a book-length prose poem as any novel you'll see this year. Put aside your normal expectations and let it have its way with you, and you'll be in for a real treat."-- Alan Cheuse, "All Things Considered" (National Public radio)

About the Author

N. Scott Momaday is a novelist, a poet, and a painter. Among the awards he has received for writing are the Pulitzer Prize and the Premio Letterario Internazionale "Mondello." He is Regent's Professor of English at the University of Arizona, and he lives in Tucson with his wife and daughter.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (September 12, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060973455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060973452
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #384,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. Barden on February 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
Momaday, as you probably know, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for his first novel, "House Made of Dawn." In that book, the hero, torn between the Native American world and modern America, and deeply affected by his Vietnam war experiences, finally disintegrates, unable to continue fighting the forces trying to destroy him.
Twenty years later, Momaday published his second book, "The Ancient Child," and it's just as powerful, just as beautifully written, as his first.
The premise is similar to the first book. A man is torn between two worlds, tormented by nightmares, and finds himself drawn to the desert. He finds his destiny, and it too is disintegration. But whereas the disintegration in "House Made of Dawn" is a violent, tragic event, in "The Ancient Child" it comes across as a process of spiritual resolution and healing, rather than destruction.
That's why I regard this book as superior to its Prize-winning predecessor. Momaday's vision seems more holistic, more encompassing in this book. His first novel's tragic vision leaves you haunted and a little horrified. This book will leave you equally haunted, not in horror, but in quiet awe of the inevitable metaphysical reckoning we all must undergo when we leave this world, and the paths we take to get there.
Read it.
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N. Scott Momaday is one of the most celebrated in the first wave of the Native American Renaissance. His highly acclaimed novel, House of Dawn, won a Pulitzer in 1969, and Momaday's narration bring gravity and lyrical elegance to the Ken Burns documentary on The West. Momaday spent much of his career as an academic and was properly considered one of the elder statesman in the flowering of Native American literature. This book, though attached to Kiowa and Navajo tales (and the legend of Billy the Kid), is an erotic, lyrical, mythic fever-dream and completely absorbing. The central character is called to rebirth and renewal in unexpected and entirely appropriate mythic fashion, transforming himself, the novel, and the reader in the process. This is one of the books I read again and again.
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Format: Paperback
The Ancient Child by N. Scott Momaday, copyright 1934, ISBN 0-385-27972-8, and published through Doubleday, is a story about the crisis of identity and one man and woman's struggle to discover their true selves. Written as four books, The Ancient Child explores the undeniable tie to identity and the discovery of how the soul truly exists.

There's an enlightening quality to the novel that leaves the reader with a deeper understanding of the major themes and how these ideas of identity, feminism, land, and languages are tied to a true identity. By working through two separate characters, Set and Grey, who struggle with the same identity crisis, the reader is able to perceive the intricacies of such an issue and the unique ways in which a person must find and establish who they are. The Ancient Child is truly a masterful work that combines the sweet poetic language of a dream world with ruthless punches of reality to create a story that can resound through the hearts of readers across generational and cultural boundaries. Through the use of Spanish, Navajo, and Kiowa words, phrases, myths, and traditions, the reader becomes embroiled in the world of Momaday and the depth of the lives of these struggling characters. The beauty of the world that surrounds these characters is often eclipsed by their desperation for a true and whole identity and the harshness of their realities. Delicately portrayed and profoundly thought provoking, The Ancient Child is truly a work of art.

If you're searching for a book that will challenge your perceptions of reality and introduce you to a world where myth, legend, dreams, and fantasy still hold a powerful sway, then The Ancient Child is a must read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not quite sure how to review this book. Dr. Momaday is an amazing person. I had the privilege of being in one of his classes at UC Santa Barbara a very long time ago, and he was the most memorable professor of my entire under-graduate time (I was not an English major). The beginning of the book left me confused; it took a long time to sort of understand what was happening. And then, in the end, I was confused again. I'm sure at least part of my confusion is that my brain is thoroughly conditioned by Anglo culture. I am familiar with the legend of the bear, and I enjoy trying to gain understanding of the Native American way of thinking. Despite the confusion I experienced, I'm glad I read the book. Maybe another reading will help me understand it better. If you are interested in Native American literature, this book is definitely worth reading.
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Format: Paperback
First, this is not an easy book to read. More prose poem than conventional novel, the multiple points of view, time shifts and format shifts (narrative, essay, poetry) force a reader to scrutinize every word, and the two major characters, Grey and Set, are more archetypes than people in their own right. What I found more intriguing were some of the minor characters, both the historic Billy the Kid and Kiowa warrior Set-angya and the, I presume, fictional visionary great-grandmother Kope'mah. Through Grey's prose and poetry about Billy the Kid, Momaday constructs a metabiography of the legendary outlaw who, near the end of the book, carries on a beyond-the-grave conversation with Set-angya, a historic figure who was so attached to his son that he carried the boy's bones wherever he went.

Momaday (who is also a painter) also excels at describing how it feels to be an artist like his character Set. Readers who stick with this book will also be steeped in the author's description of Kiowa life, both modern, historic and legendary, and rewarded by Momaday's poetic description both of the prairies that are his tribe's homeland and the Southwestern desert where he grew up and lived much of his adult life.
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