Thursday, November 01, 2007

Shane, by Jack Schaefer

Not a fan of westerns, never seen the movie with Alan Ladd, and had my doubts as to whether this 1949 title should be kept.

It should.

I haven't decided on a reader for it yet, because the first half of the book is a lyrical character study of a drifter who arrives at a farm in Wyoming in 1889. While the family is happy, trouble is brewing. The father hires Shane to help with the work, and ends up getting more help than he bargains from the enigmatic stranger whose every move whispers "danger".

Once we find out that the evil rancher Fletcher is trying to take over all the small farms in the area using Wild West tactics (Won't seel your land? Fine. We'll just shoot and kill you.), we see how useful Shane is. Told from the point of view of the young son, this is more a look into what it takes to "be a man" and stand up for what is right than it is a shoot-em-up western, although the action picks up halfway through the book and there are a lot of bar room brawls and gun battles.

I have to see the movie now, and someone must read this. It is a difficult book, though-- the father and Shane are both trying to do what is best for the family, even though it might be hard for them personally. I found Shane's sacrifice a touching change from the modern depiction of family interactions. As much a product of the 1950s as the 1890s, Shane's character is a vanished piece of Americana worth preserving.

Really shouldn't mention Pamela Service's Stinker from Space in the same breath as Shane. I didn't even realize I had this book, but it will now be newly popular. A very thin book, it has an Accelerated Reading level of 6.8, making it hugely appealing to many students like my son who just want to get their AR book out of the way so they can read whatever they like.

A space alien crashes to earth and sends his spirit to the only somewhat dexterous creature around-- a skunk. Karen is oddly drawn to the animal, feeds him cookies and takes him home. Of course, complications ensue, and Tsynq Yr must be returned to his home despite all the comic obstacles.

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