Man Made of Words: Essays, Stories, Passages

Man Made of Words: Essays, Stories, Passages

by N. Scott Momaday
     
 

Exploring such themes as land, language, and identity, Momaday recalls the moving stories of his Kiowa grandfather and Kiowa ancestors, recollects a boyhood spent partly at Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, and ponders the circumstances of history and Indian-White relations as we inherit them today. Collecting thirty-two essays and articles, The Man Made of Words attempts… See more details below

Overview

Exploring such themes as land, language, and identity, Momaday recalls the moving stories of his Kiowa grandfather and Kiowa ancestors, recollects a boyhood spent partly at Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, and ponders the circumstances of history and Indian-White relations as we inherit them today. Collecting thirty-two essays and articles, The Man Made of Words attempts to fashion a definition of American literature as we have not interpreted it before and explores a greater understanding of the relationship between humankind and the physical world we inhabit.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
With every publication since 1969, when he won the Pulitzer Prize for his first novel, House Made of Dawn, Momaday has proven that he is a preeminent voice in Native American literature. In this masterful new collection of essays and articles, it is clearer than ever that he is not simply a very good "Indian" writer, but a great American writer. He describes in the first part of this collection the differences between European written tradition and the oral tradition of Native Americans, this tradition being the basis for Native American literature. In an oral tradition words are held sacred: "One who has only an oral tradition thinks of language in this way: my words exist at the level of my voice. If I do not speak with care, my words are wasted." Momaday exemplifies this tradition by choosing every word here with great attention. His words are not "multiplied and diluted to inflation," they are chosen for maximum effect. The three parts of this assemblage are wholly distinct. The first, titled "The Man Made of Words" is devoted to the idea of the sacredness of words, language and books. The second, "Essays in Place," describes the nature of places he has visited from Russia, Bavaria and France, to the American plains and his boyhood home of New Mexico. The third, called "The Storyteller and His Art," is an accumulation of short pieces on many diverse topics. His works are moving, thought-provoking and gorgeously written. His longest piece, "The Morality of Indian Hating," is a concise and heartfelt, but never angry, treatment of well-meaning yet short-sighted government Indian policies and the emotional damage they continue to inflict. While ostensibly musing on Native American sacred places in the piece "Sacred Places," he touches on a purely American debate about the need to preserve natural lands. In it he writes, "It is good for us, too, to touch the earth. We, and our children, need the chance to walk the sacred earth, this final abiding place of all that lives." Few authors write as gracefully or majestially as Momaday and these essays are more than worthy to occupy the pages of something he holds so sacred-a book.
Kirkus Reviews
A noteworthy collection of essays and occasional prose pieces by the doyen of Native American letters.

Momaday (The Ancient Child, 1989, etc.) here gathers some 30 pieces, ranging from a memoir of a stroll on a Greenland beach to a eulogy for the Mohawk actor known as Jay Silverheels. Most of these pieces are very short, a few only a page or two in length. As a result, some are only glancing, never quite getting into their subjects; this is especially evident in Momaday's essays on his travels to Germany and Russia, pieces that barely transcend the run of dentist's-office magazine fluff. Such lapses are few, though, and he is much better when he writes more at length on places of which he has a deep knowledge, especially the sacred geography of his native Kiowa landscape and the dry parts of New Mexico, where Billy the Kid once rode. Momaday has been nursing an interest in the Kid for years now, and several of these pieces turn to considering the unfortunate outlaw, a young man of mythicized history who is, Momaday concludes, "finally unknowable." Momaday is no tree-hugger, but he presses the case for a mature ecological ethic that "brings into account not only man's instinctive reaction to his environment but the full realization of his humanity as well." The best pieces in the book, such as a wonderful essay on Navajo place names, combine this ethic with a profound attention to local knowledge and old ways of knowing; echoing Borges, Momaday proclaims that for him paradise is a library, but also "a prairie and a plain . . . [and] the place of words in a state of grace."

No matter how incompletely developed, these anecdote-driven pieces are marked by Momaday's nearly religious attention to language and "the music of memory." To read him is to be in the company of a master wordsmith.

The New York Times Book Review
The dean of American Indian writers . . . Mr. Momaday constructs beautifully cadenced sentences and summons a colorful assortment of stories and states of mind from a lively imagination.
The Nation
Momaday is a kind of arrowmaker himself—savvy, agile with language, and ready to slay, in a heartbeat, the predator outside.
Atlanta Journal Constitution
There is . . . an unmistakable greatness here . . . Momaday's qualification to speak on the restorative power of words follows from his position as an outsider who uses language to negotiate a way between two worlds . . . Momaday may write for himself and his people . . . but he speaks to us all.
Buffalo News
The Man Made of Words is Momaday in a nutshell, essential Momaday . . . Throughout [he] sounds his grand theme: the sacred—an Indian sacred and what it is.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312155810
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
03/28/1997
Edition description:
REV
Pages:
211
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.51(h) x 1.02(d)

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