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Great Plains by Ian Frazier

Great Plains

by Ian Frazier

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Written by someone with an obvious love for and facination with the geography, history and lore of the Great Plans, Frazier made me want to spend a year exploring its vastness. ( )
  wareagle78 | Mar 21, 2014 |
This book is romantic and elegiac. His accounts of Crazy Horse's life and death, the people he meets and the vast, unpeopled plains he travels across remain in the memory. ( )
  Welshwoman | Jan 5, 2011 |
Had I not read Travels in Siberia first, I would have loved this book even more. As I noted in my review of that book, Frazier has a wonderful ability to talk to all sorts of people, tell their stories, and weave history, the natural world, and tales of the road together. In this book, he takes the reader to the least inhabited part of the North American continent and, as he travels from Montana in the north to Texas in the south, and from New Mexico in the west to Kansas in the east, the reader learns about the history of the Native Americans of the area (including the life and death of Crazy Horse), the stories of immigrants lured to the plains, the challenges of farming in such a dry region, the nuclear missile silos buried beneath concrete platforms in the middle of nowhere, and much more. What makes this so fascinating is Frazier's lively curiosity, readable style, and humanity.
1 vote rebeccanyc | Dec 30, 2010 |
The author takes readers on a meandering journey; combining interesting stories of his travels to and fro across the plains with chunks of current and past history, bits of folklore and myth, and descriptions of the geography, landscapes, and people of America's grasslands. The narrative drifts you along thousands of miles to visit remote towns, historic sites, and provide unique insights of the regions separating the Rocky Mountains and eastward farmlands. Find an online interview of the author at The Believer: Ian Frazier http://www.believermag.com/issues/200409/?read=interview_frazier Several articles written by Frazier can be read at Outside Online: The Outside Literary All-Stars - Ian Frazier http://outside.away.com/outside/features/literary-all-stars_7.html (lj) ( )
  eduscapes | Apr 21, 2010 |
I like the other things I've read by Ian Frazier, in large part because I'm generally a sucker for ruminations on American identity issues.

This one is focused on the Great Plains, obviously. Weirdly, I didn't know when it was published, but by the first 1/3 through, I was thinking to myself that it sounds, in my head, very 80s. It was 89, as it happens. I'm still not clear on what made it so obviously 80s to me.

Frazier is a New Yorker who as an adult transplanted himself to the middle of America and so has that observant and somewhat obsessive approach that people can get toward things they love but to which they are not native.

He covers a lot of historical periods, one of which is the Indian wars (although I liked these chapters, he was messing around with a weird stylistic thing which I think was supposed to be reminiscent of traditional native story-telling but didn't work very well), and in addition to being a New Yorker who is obsessed with the Great Plains, he's also a white guy obsessed by Indians (further covered in other books), but he's very self-aware about it and always puts it out there as something to be assessed. One of the topics he covers is the Cult of Crazy Horse, and in college I was full-blown into this, let me tell you. And it is a funky thing, I mean, why Crazy Horse when there were other Indians who were crazier, (come on, you know it's so tempting to follow up with "or horsier") or more successful, or more peaceful, or more not peaceful, or who had longer, more significant careers and more influential leadership roles. I especially liked this passage where Frazier articulates why Crazy Horse is so iconic:

Personally, I love Crazy Horse because even the most basic outline of his life shows how great he was; because he remained himself from the moment of this birth to the moment he died; because he knew exactly where he wanted to live and never left; because he may have surrendered, but he was never defeated in battle; because, although he was killed, even the Army admitted he was never captured; because he was so free that he didn't know what a jail looked like; because at the most desperate moment of his life he only cut Little Big Man on the hand; because, unlike many people all over the world, when he met white men he was not diminished by the encounter; because his dislike of the oncoming civilization was prophetic; because the idea of becoming a farmer apparently never crossed his mind; because he didn't end up in the Dry Tortugas; because he never met the President; because he never rode on a train, slept in a boardinghouse, ate at a table; because he never wore a medal or a top hat or any other thing that white men gave him; because he made sure that his wife was safe before going where he expected to die; because although Indian agents, among themselves, sometimes referred to Red Cloud as "Red" and Spotted Tail as "Spot," they never used a diminutive for him; because, deprived to freedom, power, occupation, culture, trapped in a situation where bravery was invisible, he was still brave; because he fought in self-defense, and took no one with him when he died; because, like the rings of Saturn, the carbon atom, and the underwater reef, he belonged to a category of phenomena which our technology had not then advanced far enough to photograph; because no photograph or painting or even sketch of him exists; because he is not the Indian on the nickel, the tobacco pouch, or the apple crate.

Grade: B, ish
Recommended: It's not the best by this author, but if you like him, or if you have a particular interest in the Great Plains (although really, who doesn't?) this is a pleasant read. ( )
1 vote delphica | Mar 11, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312278500, Paperback)

National Bestseller

With his unique blend of intrepidity, tongue-in-cheek humor, and wide-eyed wonder, Ian Frazier takes us on a journey of more than 25,000 miles up and down and across the vast and myth-inspiring Great Plains. A travelogue, a work of scholarship, and a western adventure, Great Plains takes us from the site of Sitting Bull’s cabin, to an abandoned house once terrorized by Bonnie and Clyde, to the scene of the murders chronicled in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It is an expedition that reveals the heart of the American West.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:04 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

With a unique blend of intrepid adventure, tongue-in-cheek humor, and wide-eyed wonder, Ian Frazier takes us on a journey through the vast and myth-inspiring Great Plains--from the site of Sitting Bull's cabin to an abandoned House once terrorized by Bonnie and Clyde to the scene of the murders chronicled in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. It is an expedition that reveals the Heart of the American West.… (more)

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