The Heartsong Of Charging Elk

Welch, James

Published by Doubleday, 2000
ISBN 10: 0385496745 / ISBN 13: 9780385496742
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New York. 2000. Doubleday. 1st American Edition. Very Good In Dustjacket. 440 pages. hardcover. ISBN: 0385496745. inventory # 28229. FROM THE PUBLISHER - Inspired by actual historical fact, James Welch's tells the story of an Oglala Sioux who travels the extraordinary geographical and cultural distance from tribal life in the Black Hills of South Dakota to existence on the streets of Marseille. As a young boy, Charging Elk witnessed his people's massacre of Custer's Seventh Cavalry at Little Big Horn, followed by years of futile fighting and wandering until the Sioux were finally lured to the Pine Ridge reservation. But he prefers life in the Stronghold, living by his wits and skills in the old way. Ironically, it is Charging Elk's horsemanship and independent air that cause Buffalo Bill to recruit him for his Wild West Show, which travels across 'the big water' to create a sensation in the capitals of Europe. Charging Elk and his Sioux companions are living a life touched by fame and marked by previously unthinkable experiences - until he falls ill in Marseille and, through a bureaucratic mix-up, is left behind in a hospital while the show travels on. Scared, disoriented, Charging Elk escapes - only to fall into a series of events, including a love affair with a prostitute and a shocking murder, that will change his life utterly beyond his imagination. James Welch, one of our truly great Native American writers, has taken a fascinating premise and realized it with utter mastery. Reminiscent of Fools Crow, his classic novel of Indian life,The Heartsong of Charging Elk is a haunting epic of culture shock and colliding ways of life and thought, sure to be hailed by reviewers and readers alike. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: Inspired by actual historical fact, James Welch's  tells the story of an Oglala Sioux who travels the extraordinary geographical and cultural distance from tribal life in the Black Hills of South Dakota to existence on the streets of Marseille. As a young boy, Charging Elk witnessed his people's massacre of Custer's Seventh Cavalry at Little Big Horn, followed by years of futile fighting and wandering until the Sioux were finally lured to the Pine Ridge reservation. But he prefers life in the Stronghold, living by his wits and skills in the old way.

Ironically, it is Charging Elk's horsemanship and independent air that cause Buffalo Bill to recruit him for his Wild West Show, which travels across "the big water" to create a sensation in the capitals of Europe. Charging Elk and his Sioux companions are living a life touched by fame and marked by previously unthinkable experiences--until he falls ill in Marseille and, through a bureaucratic mix-up, is left behind in a hospital while the show travels on. Scared, disoriented, Charging Elk escapes--only to fall into a series of events, including a love affair with a prostitute and a shocking murder, that will change his life utterly beyond his imagination.

James Welch, one of our truly great Native American writers, has taken a fascinating premise and realized it with utter mastery. Reminiscent of Fools Crow, his classic novel of Indian life, The Heartsong of Charging Elk is a haunting epic of culture shock and colliding ways of life and thought, sure to be hailed by reviewers and readers alike.

Review: In the bitter morning of defeat, when the last battle has been lost to the white man, the protagonist of The Heartsong of Charging Elk faces a series of decisions. Should he adapt to reservation life or go wandering, a fugitive in a terrible new world? Should he become docile or violent? These are the questions at the heart of James Welch's novel, which is based on the true story of an Oglala Sioux who was plucked from the reservation to perform in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

The multiple paradoxes of his situation--a Native American acting out pseudo-Native American pageants for European audiences--are alternately comical and cruel, pathetic and poignant. "Of course," muses Charging Elk, "he knew that it was all fake and that some of the elders back home disapproved of the young men going off to participate in the white man's sham, but he no longer felt guilty about singing scalping songs or participating in scalp dances or sneak-up dances." Halfway through the tour, however, he finds himself laid up in Marseilles with broken ribs and a bout of influenza. In his delirium, he worries that the Wild West troupe may have left him behind to die--and since they are the only family he has left, Charging Elk flees the white man's "healing house" in a panic, hoping to catch up with his companions.

It's here that the novel actually begins. Welch has latched onto a fantastically rich premise: a Native American loose in a French city, delirious, hungry, and surrounded by ghosts. Charging Elk's odyssey through Marseilles is intercut with flashbacks, and his memories of the Black Hills--of life before his America was lost--generate the novel's most powerful prose. There are weak spots, too, particularly when the hero engages in some Wild Western violence. Passionate and unsteady, The Heartsong of Charging Elk tends to move in and out of focus. But during its intervals of clarity, it's hard to resist. --Emily White

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Heartsong Of Charging Elk
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: 2000
Binding: hardcover
Book Condition: Very Good In Dustjacket
Edition: 1st Edition.

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