Thursday, July 09, 2009

Top ten tales of the American frontier

Scottish playwright Chris Hannan set Missy, his first novel, in 1862 California.

For the Guardian, he named his top ten tales of the American frontier. The context for his list:
I suppose when you think of the frontier – any frontier, a gold rush or an oil workers' camp – the people are the same size but somehow the place is lonelier and seems bigger, and that makes people go just a little bit mad. The American west in 1862 was – in terms of suicide, drug consumption, divorce and sexual freedom – a hundred years ahead of its time. What went on in their heads? Then, when I started writing Missy, I got interested in other writers and all their completely different ideas of the frontier ...
One title on the list:
My Antonia by Willa Cather

"I had the feeling that the world was left behind, that we had got over the edge of it, and were outside man's jurisdiction." Something about the loneliness of the west and its landscape seems to act as a magnifier at the moral level, lending in this wonderful 1918 novel enormous scale to small acts of kindness or spite between isolated pioneer farmers in Nebraska, and a sense of the epic to the small-town life of the heroine.
Read about another book on Hannan's list.

Visit Chris Hannan's website.

Linda L. Richards advises readers to not judge Hannan's Missy by its original cover, and calls it "a quite marvelous and original book.... [U]nforgettable. Carefully wrought, beautifully executed. And definitely not for kids."

--Marshal Zeringue