The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

tury. As he discusses Coronado, Lewis and Clark, minor figures like
John Palliser and Josiah Gregg, painters like George Catlin and Karl
Bodmer, and their problems with what William H. Goetzmann has
called "a new experience in nature," we are in sure hands. When
Thacker gets through with Irving and Cooper, we have witnessed the
beginnings of the prairie as a fact of transcending presence in the
American imagination.
His discussion begins to fail, however, as it comes closer to modern
times. Where are Teddy Blue Abbott, Nannie Alderson, or General
and Mrs. Custer, or major figures like Marie Sandoz and A. B. Guthrie,
Jr.? It may be right that Thacker's most extensive treatment is devoted
to the genius of Willa Cather, but his lumping of Ole E. Rolvaag and
Wallace Stegner in a short afterword at the end of that chapter seems
clearly inappropriate.
Thacker ends with consideration of a number of minor writers and
fuller discussions of Wright Morris and the Canadian novelist Robert
Kroetsch. Both deserve any recognition they get. And Thacker is to be
congratulated for his attempt at balancing men's and women's perspec-
tives (for instance his use of Annette Kolodony's admirable The Land
Before Her).
So, The Great Prairie Fact and Literary Imagnation is quite useful when
considering early nineteenth-century and Canadian material. But I
miss discussions of contemporary writers like Ivan Doig and Larry Mc-
Murtry. I also wish Thacker had considered contemporary responses to
prairie, like efforts to incorporate some of the remaining enclaves of
tall grass prairie into the U.S. National Park Service. What have we
learned? As Rolvaag says, "If life is to thrive and endure, it must at least
have something to hide behind" (p. 172). What have we lost and what
have we found?
University of Montana WILLIAM KITTREDGE
The Pzano in America, 89o-194o. By Craig H. Roell. (Chapel Hill: Uni-
versity of North Carolina Press, 1989. Pp. xix+396. Preface, illus-
trations, graphs, epilogue, appendix, notes, select bibliography, in-
dex. $35.95-)
In 1954 the pianist Arthur Loesser wrote a clever, coy study of the
piano in American culture entitled Men, Women & Pianos. Craig Roell's
recent study of the piano in the United States between 1890 and 1940
goes a long way toward providing us with the serious study of at least
part of this important subject that Loesser's work is not.
Roell tells a convincing story. At its most basic level, it is the story of
the gradual replacement of the Victorian work ethic by the leisure-


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed April 23, 2014.