Saturday, March 30, 2013

Reading Plan - Genre: Western

Westerns are the great American genre. They extol the virtues of the beautiful and rugged landscape and the independent spirit that explored the frontier. The website for Women Writing the West states "The West represents a way of thinking, a sense of adventure, a willingness to cross into a new frontier."

While some new Westerns are published each year, the bulk of titles available include lots of reissues. The genre is often considered as a subsection of historical fiction but not all Westerns are set in the past.  

This time around, my reading plan called for a classic western and I chose to listen to read with my ears this go round.

The Canyon by Jack Schaefer
An audio version of this classic Western, first published in 1953, came out in February, 2013. It is the story of Little Bear, a young Cheyenne man who has very short legs. His parents died when he was very young and was fostered as he grew to adulthood in the northern plains. When he continues to pass up opportunities to go out with a war party because of deep convictions. When he asks an elderly warrior to sponsor him when he goes alone on a retreat to fast and commune with the spirits he ends up falling off a cliff and surviving with a broken leg. At the bottom of the canyon is a small, isolated  herd of buffalo. Little Bear's life in the bottom of the canyon is harsh but he performs amazing feats of survival from setting his own compound fracture, fighting the infection, making tools, clothing, and finding food. His resourcefulness while facing overwhelming odds is impressive. His two weeks stretch into a number of years and his future is shaped by the spirits he sees in his dreams. I liked the extreme self sufficiency of the protagonist, the beautifully depicted landscape, and the depictions of his relationship with the natural world and the animals with whom he shared the canyon.

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