- Series: Oxford Paperbacks
- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised ed. edition (April 29, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195082680
- ISBN-13: 978-0195082685
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.6 x 5.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #858,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns (Oxford Paperbacks) Revised ed. Edition
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From Library Journal
In her first book, Sensational Designs (Oxford Univ. Pr., 1985), Tompkins argues that serious study of the sentimental novels America produced in the 19th century offers rewards. The next major genre to make an appearance in popular American fiction was the Western. Here, Tompkins examines the Western as it appears in print and on film. She discusses The Virginian , Riders of the Purple Sage , and Louis L'Amour's Last of the Breed at some length and gives a detailed description of her visit to the Buffalo Bill Museum. Other parts of her book range farther afield. Tompkins attempts to forge a Welt anschauung of the Western, which of course leads to an occasional overgeneralization, but her personalized intellectual response to the genre makes this book interesting and thought-provoking.
- John Smothers, Monmouth Cty. Lib., Manalapan, N.J.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
``...the bodies of the silent men of Company C lay wide-eyed to the rain and bare-chested to the wind...dead now in the long grass on a lonely hill, west of everything.'' So ends a paragraph of Louis L`Amour's Hondo, a work that readers of Tompkins's rapt reevaluation of the ecstasies of Western novels, film, and icons will come to revere as much as does Tompkins herself (English/Duke Univ.). The two heroes who loom largest in Tompkins's pantheon are L`Amour and Zane Grey. She quotes brilliantly, offering the reader time and again ``the fully saturated moment,'' showing a Grey who is a poet with as furiously rich and sexually Pan-spirited a sense of landscape as D.H. Lawrence. Tompkins sees the Western as a cannon-burst against sentimental women's fiction in the 19th century, against the dominance of women's culture and the women's invasion of the public sphere between 1880 and 1920. ``It's about men's fear of losing their mastery, and hence their identity, both of which the Western tirelessly reinvents.'' Her larger themes are death, women, the language of men (``yup''), landscape, horses, and cattle--all of which she follows in John Wayne classics, The Searchers and Red River, as well as in Alan Ladd's Shane. But her richest chapters are those on Grey, who ``doesn't know that he is making the rim rock and the sage slopes enact the birth of a new age, but that is what he is doing.'' His is a landscape with blatant but unacknowledged sexual imagery, as in Riders of the Purple Sage: ``She went stone-blind in the fury of a passion that had never before showed its power. Lying upon her bed, sightless, voiceless, she was a writhing, living flame.'' Some academic clinkers, but mainly right down to sod. (Ten halftones--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Lots of constant features have a new, clearer defintion for us. She calls to our attention the very few buildings needed to characterize every single western town we've ever seen on the screen: the hotel, the livery stable, saloon, sherrif's office, church, barber shop, general store --- AND THAT'S THE LOT! These are the only town buildings identified in 95% of westerns. The remainder of the buildings remain on view but expendable. And she lists the unexamined assumptions basic to our enjoyment of westerns, i.e., that somehow we've come to assume it's normal for men to gun each other down in the dusty streets of desert towns, with excited townspeople holding their breath and eager to run out and jabber about it all in a great surge of relief and approval. And she points out how men are presented as superior, often shown looking down from the saddle at the anxious woman in homespun. But Jane Tomkins loves it all. "I too would love to swagger into a saloon, order a whiskey, spin around and hear all conversation stop." This is a delightful, positive, tribute to the westerns (roughly up to the 1980s) that have entered our consciousness and built a landscape there. And it's all easy, non-didactic reading.
There's no deconstruction here, other than a few sentences about the fate of the Indians. (The last word goes with the era presented by the book). There's no attempt to present historical facts that are unsettling in the mode of "what your schools never told you about the expansion of the west." Instead,Jane Tomkins confines herself to the cinema world of cowboys, gunslingers, saloon insults, strangers riding into town, bush whackings and the final shootout on Main Street with all the onlookers peering breathlessly from the corners of windows. Her book stays within its announced intentions and IMHO can't be improved upon. It reigns supreme.