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Monday, February 16, 2015

Goodreads | Eric_W Welch (Forreston, IL)'s review of Education of a Wandering Man

Several years ago I helped a dear old friend (he died a day after his  102nd birthday  in 2009) edit his memoirs.  He was not new to writing.  In his younger years he had produced an interesting series of essays about his love for the farm he had purchased and the horses he rode called River Hill Soliloquy.  It was published by the University of Illinois Press.  After his death I had it reissued as an ebook.  The book had a local following.  The book I helped to edit years later called Montana Montage was a collection of stories from his very early days as a trail hand in Montana. It had considerable historical interest.

The last item that we worked on,  however, Diary of a Journeyman, despite my best efforts became a litany, a virtual list, of the many friends he had had during his years as the editorial director for a large printing and publishing firm in Mt. Morris, Illinois that produced fraternal organization magazines.  He was afraid of leaving anyone out regardless of their importance.  Clarence, like L'Amour was self-educated and never had much formal education.  He went on to become a wealthy benefactor of the local community college and its library of which I was the director.  I helped him self-publish Diary of a Journeyman and Montana Montage, but by that time, he had outlived most of the people in Diary so the very limited initial market had dwindled even more. 

So it is with L'Amour's book.  Far from the action-packed westerns that built a large following (I'm but a lukewarm fan as I find much of his writing pedestrian), this book borders on being merely a catalog of the books he has read over the years with assorted comments.  The writing, in its short cadences with abrupt transitions reminded me so much of Clarence's final product it was eerie, the only difference being that the subjects were books rather than persons. It's very superficial and of only limited interest.  I fear I must admit to skimming it quite quickly.

That Daniel J. Boostin, one of my favorite cultural historians -- his trilogy The Americans, which I read in the late seventies, is enthralling history and brilliantly written -- speaks more to his friendship with L'Amour than the book's content.

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