Sacagawea's NicknameEssays on the American West
Explorers and martyrs, princes and poets, hucksters and scholars fill the pages of Larry McMurtry's new book on the history and enduring yet ever-shifting myths of the American West. In twelve essays from The New York Review, he ranges from Lewis and Clark's expedition on the Missouri River, where they immortalized Sacagawea in the Journals that McMurtry calls our first American epic, to John Wesley Powell's on the Colorado, from the dispossession of the Five Civilized Tribes to the fascination of Zuni for a parade of unscrupulous anthropologists, from entertainers like Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley to pulp writers like Zane Grey.
Once again Larry McMurtry casts a keen and elegaic eye not only on the often harsh truths of the West, but also on the power of western illusions, of what he calls "that other, endlessly imagined West, the West that can never be fully believed or wholly denied." These essays combine the vivid character portraits, telling historical insights, dry humor, and narrative gifts that have made him our finest contemporary writer about the American West.
McMurtry doesn't debunk the mythic West; he honors it. This is a profound and frequently funny book.
— The New Yorker
In this enthralling collection of essays, all originally published in The New York Review of Books, McMurtry touches on a broad variety of topics. With both compassion and brilliant critical insight, he illustrates how the best intentions of "friends of the Indians" promoted disastrous policies in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. This treasure will inform and stir the emotions of both Western enthusiasts and general readers.
Sacagawea's Nickname reminds us of McMurtry's considerable strengths as a prose writer: sharp and often very funny powers of observation, a provocative presentation of self that is alternately self-deprecating and arrogant, and most of all, a prodigious bookman's belief in the spell of the written word that emanates off every page....He comes across in these pages as fully engaged and invigorated.
— The Texas Observer
This volume will appeal to a wide range of Western enthusiasts and those interested in good literature, whatever the region. McMurtry's insights are always penetrating, but his tribute to the poet-novelist Janet Lewis deserves careful reading. He studies her as an author over time and lays bare the unflinching honesty and subtlety he brought to both her poetry and her fiction and the tragic themes she explored. Sacagawea's Nickname is provocative in some parts, humorous in others, but always rewarding concerning those writers who have helped to shape our views of a region central to America's definition of itself.
— Great Plains Quarterly