movie acting as a hobby. What explains his ability to survive, even thrive, in such a treacherously ambiguous and dangerous environment? Is he just lucky? Has the author resorted to contrivance? Not really. Smith’s ploy here is to let Copperfield serve as narrative guide through crosscuts of America: pre-1920s small-town life, boom times, on into the postwar development of southern California as movie capital and business center. Iola, Copperfield’s studiously contained counterpart and friend since childhood, serves the purpose of expanding Data Processing Typesetting Printing Mailing FUTUM COMMUNICATIONS, INC. 3019 Alvin DeVane Suite 500 Austin, Texas 78741 Fax 512.389.0867 512.389.1500 .. .,… -…tri 47 Z”’:; 1 . ,,._, ;Fi r6 NN N -7 T,\\ –?t ‘ ‘ b, _ , , \(2 ,,x .0,k .i.,.. -:<,v ,v , .9,06yr Finally! The Texas Map you English Speakers have been waiting -,."' ,r,.. \\,1 for. Here is the New Texas, st,, NAG,L .-vg ,,,--, , free of all those hard-to k pronounce place names. 1,:::\( -;ar , IP, Here is Texas in English g.:``:-' ,50 ' w 7et like God intended. Remem r , ,,, 4 ber, it may be too late for h !, English First, but not for Q-ksr-Iotr-- 00 English Now! 1 YES. SEND ME JEFF DANZIGER'S AMENDED MAP OF TEXAS I ENCLOSE $5 TO COVER PRINTING, POSTAGE, & HANDLING name address city state zip The Texas Observer, 307 W. 7th, Austin, TX 78701 ...i the story's geography, carrying us beyond the States to Europe during World War I, then back again onto the shifting grounds of American life, both rural and urban. WITHOUT FORCING issues, Smith suggests, in the sections on the '20s, that there are parallels of disaster between that time and our own: the self-destructive entanglements of drug abuse, alcoholism, and promiscuity. In league with the critical stance that has dominated modern American fiction, events here call to mind the old saw about Hollywood: Scratch the surface and you hit rock bottom. Bad judgment, sentimentality, and greed turn characters into both prey and predator. Seeing the dizzying corruption fostered during Prohibition and in the drug subculture, noting the spiritual idiocy encouraged by religious hucksters \(Aimee Semple McPherson echoing our own loosezippered mountebanks, and registering the generally universal anarchy of the human heart, Smith serves up sizable portions of American culture in Buffalo Nickel; but showing his gifts as story-teller, he does so through specifics of event rather than rhetorical generalization. Smith's experiment with tone here includes the interspersing of Indian folk myths sections of the narrative, a technique that broadens our involvement with the decidedly American experience presented. At the same time, the folk myths pull us away from the central narrative by encouraging a sense of detachment that helps us evaluate personal and tribal strengths and weaknesses. We respond with coolness as well as warmth, with mind as well as heart. In so doing, we realize that Smith is working in American fiction's anti-sentimental main line. A style of presentation attends to that attitude: realism, fiction-cum-history. On a sailing trip near novel's end the narrative pace quickens. The effect is climactic, and Smith's hand remains sure, except in developing a key incident where the reader is left with little choice other than to review the details to be certain of what's happened. The aftermath of the explosive event is vivid, but the cause is vague because Smith limits our perceptions here to Copperfield's own. Up till now, Smith has not usually kept our awareness limited to the narrow perspective of his characters. So as readers we are left momentarily confused. And though the answer is clear enough on reflection, the initial ambiguity is perplexing. In spite of that rough spot likely caused by an overenthusiastic urge to hone away even a hint of excess the novel recovers. Smith has at his command a wealth of assimilated information, exceptional narrative powers, and alertness to love's complexities. The multi-layered culture we become involved with in Buffalo Nickel is consistently interesting; it's also, by thematic extension, our own. on the farmland and he becomes rich. Not only does he avoid losing his head over his change of fortune, he intentionally burns the first big wad he makes, thus reinforcing his air of independence while showing questionable judgment. Both traits bless and curse him in subsequent chapters. Before long, a frontier chanteuse in league with a corrupt second-generation banker cons him into marriage, but Copperfield doesn't lose his money to her either. He finds little happiness with her, escapes attempts on his life and takes up 20 OCTOBER 27, 1989
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