Sunday, May 16, 2010

Robert Day's Committee to Save the World: Selected Nonliterary Nonfiction

If you have not yet read Robert Day's Committee to Save the World, with introduction by The Land Institute's Wes Jackson, do find a copy. Leo Oliva published it through Western Books (PO Box 1, Woodston KS 67675). This is one of the most engaging, honest, and funny descriptions of life between the Platte and Red Rivers; beween the Kaw and Sand Creek. Most essays are previously published in places like the Washington Post, New Letters, and Smithsonian. Day has one of the most engaging voices in contemporary belles lettres. He recounts the failed movie attempts to capture this part of the country in his essays about The Last Cattle Drive, his seminal novel--if you haven't read it, it eerily resembles Urban Cowboy. No accident. He also explains phenomena like Carrie Nation and genius-poet William Stafford from Hutchinson. He gives a participant-informer's insights into the culture of High Plains inhabitants, in contrast to Ian Frazier, who writes from a few summer tours of the place. Day grew up in small-town Kansas and still has a place in Luddell. He is cosmopolitan and local at once. It's a great combination. Wes Jackson writes: "Bob Day is a man of letters. But he is also a reincarnation of Don Quixote, Straight Arrow, Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger and Tom Mix." Color illustrations by Kathy Jankus Day embellish the book.