We Who Work the West examines literary representations of class, labor, and space in the American West from 1885 to 2012. Moving from María Amparo Ruiz de Burton’s representations of dispossessed Californio ranchers in the mid-nineteenth century to the urban grid of early twentieth-century San Francisco in Frank Norris’s McTeague to working and unemployed cowboys in the contemporary novels of Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry, Kiara Kharpertian provides a panoramic look at literary renderings of both individual labor—physical, tangible, and often threatened handwork—and the epochal transformations of central institutions of a modernizing West: the farm, the ranchero, the mine, the rodeo, and the Native American reservation. The West that emerges here is both dynamic and diverse, its on-the-ground organization of work, social class, individual mobility, and collective belonging constantly mutating in direct response to historical change and the demands of the natural environment. The literary West thus becomes more than a locus of mythic nostalgia or consumer fantasy about the American past. It becomes a place where the real work of making that West, as well as the suffering and loss it often entailed, is reimagined.
About the Author
Table of Contents
Editors’ Note Acknowledgments Introduction: How to Tell a Western Story 1. Naturalism’s Handiwork: Labor, Class, and Space in Frank Norris’s McTeague: A Story of San Francisco 2. Civic Identity and the Ethos of Belonging: María Amparo Ruiz de Burton’s The Squatter and the Don and Raymond Barrio’s The Plum Plum Pickers 3. Watching the West Erode in the 1930s: Sanora Babb’s Whose Names Are Unknown, Frank Waters’s Below Grass Roots, and John Fante’s Wait Until Spring, Bandini and Ask the Dust 4. He Was a Good Cowboy: Identity and History on the Post–World War II Texas Ranch in Larry McMurtry’s Horseman, Pass By, Elmer Kelton’s The Time It Never Rained, and Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses 5. Tradition and Modernization Battle It Out on Rocky Soil: Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Stephen Graham Jones’s The Bird Is Gone, and Linda Hogan’s Mean Spirit 6. From Prairie to Oil: Hybridization and Belonging via Class, Labor, and Space in Philipp Meyer’s The Son Notes References Index