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Runner in the Sun (D’Arcy McNickle)

December 4, 2009

I just finished D’Arcy McNickle’s 1954 novel about a young boy named Salt who saves his people from … well, from themselves, I suppose. It’s a nice story, although it is written in an almost fable-like language which has the potential to oversimplify its message (in my opinion). It was a quick and enjoyable read, but one that I think is representative of an era of writing during which authors of color were serving as pseudo-ethnographers: their stories, which were finally beginning to be read by a larger (white) audience were being taken as anthropological histories rather than works of fiction. It’s a style that brings me back to works I read in high school and before — works that were taught in hopes of broadening our understanding of other cultures, but which were not the contemporary works that address political and social issues that I am more interested in today. In any case, I can’t be too hard on McNickle because I did really enjoy the story. However, I must admit that part of its appeal was the fact that there was never really any narrative tension (and since I am a big wimp, this was helpful for me because I was never pushed to the point of being nervous or jumpy on behalf of the characters). So perhaps this is not ultimately a good thing as far as the writing is concerned, but it was nice since I was able to enjoy the process of reading more than I sometimes am when things get suspenseful and dangerous in a book.

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