Shorty Harris, or the Price of Gold: A Novel (Literature of the American West, 3)

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9780806131245: Shorty Harris, or the Price of Gold: A Novel (Literature of the American West, 3)
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Americans are seekers. Shorty Harris, or The Price of Gold is the story of a legendary desert prospector who spent his whole life searching for gold and, when he found it, gave it away. He died broke in 1934 and wrote his own epitaph: "Here lies Shorty Harris, a single blanket jackass prospector."
William W. Bevis's sweeping western novel begins during the gold rush of 1849 and brings Shorty from violin lessons in Providence, Rhode Island, to the mining camps of Nevada, then follows the misfortunes and mistakes that leave him, finally, estranged from family and society, facing only himself.
But this is also the story of a desert consciousness, and Death Valley is a major character. As Shorty slowly and painfully learns the land - the desert plants and animals, and their subtle, necessary rhythms of waiting, finding, and letting go - his search also becomes, ironically, a quest for harmony with the land he exploits.

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About the Author:

William W. Bevis is Professor of English at the University of Montana, Missoula.

From Publishers Weekly:

Shorty Harris (1872-1934), who called himself "a single blanket jackass prospector," spent most of his 62 years wandering the mountains of Montana and the deserts of Nevada and California in search of gold. Shorty struck it rich twice, establishing two boom towns, but gave his wealth away and died penniless. Bevis's fiction debut (after the nonfiction Ten Tough Trips, etc.) is literate, sometimes poetic, and very detailed as it follows the ill-starred, stoical Shorty from his early exploits in Panamint City, Nev., to his Death Valley grave. While still in his 20s, Shorty finds himself on the wrong end of a shady mining scheme in Nevada. He kills a man who is about to poach on a gold strike, abandons his wife and daughter, to whom he never returns, and heads out into the hills. Preferring the solitary life of a prospector to the fate of a married man with debts, Shorty endures freezing winters and broiling summers, lured by the dream of just one more gold strike. Inured to hardship, constantly hungry and wary of success, Shorty hikes up and down unforgiving canyons through chapter after chapter, always expecting disappointment. Bevis seems to admire this tough, sad fellow immensely; as indicated in a prologue and an epilogue, his research was thorough and empathetic. But trying to make a novel out of Shorty's life turns out to be a lot like looking for gold in those harsh hills. Despite some efforts at dreamy lyricism, this is a melancholy tale, heavy on introspection and on geological data. Past the dusty, jargon-filled lectures about igneous intrusions and magnetites, a reader seeking plot and character will find only a forlorn old man, vainly seeking that last vein of gold. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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