Cover image for Liar's moon : a long story


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A boldly imagined novel of the West in the years following the Civil War.It's 1852 and a young girl in Texas is kidnapped by Indians. It's 1859 and two toddlers fall off a buckboard heading west: rumor has it they survived and are being raised by coyotes. It's 1874 and a young brave has a vision he is invincible: he will lead his people to disaster. It's 1879 and a black Mississippi sharecropper is terrorized into making the migration west. It's 1890 and we have arrived at Wounded Knee: the West has been subdued.There have been many versions of how the West was "won," but Liar's Moon, with its coruscating vision and its rowdy vitality, outpaces them all. As it deromanticizes our greatest story, the novel shows how history slid into leg to become-in little more than thirty years-the defining myth of America. With its mix of songs and laments, tall tales, hearsay, and history, Liar's Moon is a true American original, a subversive match for the energy, diversity, and lies that have stitched this nationtogether.

Author Notes

Philip Kimball grew up working on his family farm before going to Germany as a Fulbright Scholar and returning to a variety of blue-collar jobs. Harvesting Ballads, his first novel, appeared in 1984 ("one of the year's most original novels"-Publishers Weekly), and Liar's Moon is his second. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In a high-plains atmosphere, a set of high-relief characters contends with the advance of civilization. Their first-person narratives interlock, and all revolve around the harbingers of the closing frontier, like cattle drives. "Brother" begins. An itinerant preacher, he encounters a woman in a creekside hovel who rambles about a coyote pack up the draw a-ways--thoughts of his lost brother (gone feral?) crowd the preacher. That hangs while Kimball reworks the captivity narrative. Autumn Tallgrass, a kidnapped white girl who prefers Indian ways to those of Texas settlers, marries Coyote Dropping, whose adventures encompass encounters with firewater, soldiers, Buffalo Bill's showmanship, and the tragedy at Wounded Knee. The difficult migration to Kansas of emancipated blacks is experienced by "Spartacus." Kimball poses these and other actors in an antiheroic manner on the way to a fade-out ending, perhaps his device to convey the idea that the West has no end and is endlessly reinterpretable. With its rugged vernacular, Kimball's version valiantly reaches for readers daring for a western that breaks out of the genre's conventions. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

The conquest of the American West is, Janus-like, a myth with two faces, one looking forward and one back. The closing of the frontier is a story of adventure, of exhilarating challenges and wild, improbable victories; it is at the same time a story tinged with melancholy and defeat. This complex double view is the defining spirit of Kimball's rambunctious and radiant second novel, his first (after Harvesting Ballads, 1984) in 15 years. Tall tales, rants and circuit sermonizing mesh with a modicum of history, geography and chronology to form a tale more spun than told. Two children, one white and one black, topple off the back of an overloaded wagon heading into Kansas in 1859 and are raised by coyotes. Years later, the white boy's brother, now a circuit preacher, goes in search of them. He enlists the aid of a woman who as a child was stolen from Texas by Indians, was tracked down and brought home, then escaped and went back to the Indian settlement. Thus her fate is joined with that of the Indians, who are scattered, divided and murdered at the same time that the land is being parceled off and fenced, and the cattle drives and the old renegade way of life brought to an end. Faulknerian in style and in its multiple and overlapping points of view, the novel is distinguished by its voice√Ąelevated and raw, bluntly literal and rhapsodically lyrical, more concerned with nouns than verbs, and more often relying on lists than completed sentences. The plot line is thus sometimes difficult to follow, but it permeates the imagination with the mythic lore of the West. Though far from a conventional western, this incandescently imaginative, beautifully written narrative follows in a long tradition of books and films that have evoked the epic struggle for, triumph over and loss of the American frontier. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved