SHORT NIGHTS OF THE SHADOW CATCHER

Author Timothy Egan in his book Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher  crafts a splendid and enjoyable biography of  world-renowned  American Indian anthropologist, photographer  and chronicler  Edward Curtis.

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Egan captures the epic story of Curtis’s extraordinary creation of the 20-volume The North American Indian, an incomparable photographic and narrative now considered a work of art, documenting the complex and tragic story of the vanishing Native Americans. Egan writes in extensive detail of the thirty years during which Curtis became a slave to the completion of the work, capturing the personal sacrifices and near death adventures necessary for the narrative to be “preciously”  Edward Curtis. “This was a place like no other he had seen through three decades of portrait foraging, ”  writes Egan.  ” Think of it,”  Curtis wrote in his diary, ” At last, and for the first time in all my thirty years work with the natives, I have found a place where no  missionary has worked.”

Edward Curtis

Edward Curtis

At the Little Big Horn  battlefield and only after extensively interviewing Sioux who were present  that day, Edward Curtis uncovers a very different story of what actually happened at Custer’s Last Stand. ” Let them fight, there will be plenty of fighting left for us to do.”  George Armstrong Custer as told to Curtis by Crow Scout White Man Runs Him overlooking the  battlefield where General Marcus’s troops were slaughtered.

The reader will meet those who inspired Curtis to pursue his dream including Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, J.P. Morgan, George Bird Grinnell , Chief Joseph and Geronimo. Egan’s portrait of Curtis is explicit in that it would be impossible to find another American who sacrificed  to the extent of Edward  Curtis to pursue the documentation and preservation of the vanishing way of life of the first Americans.

More than a biography, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher shares with the reader Curtis’s depth of knowledge and understanding of the widely different cultures, rituals, and beliefs of the various American Indian tribes.  It is also a wonderfully crafted story of how the creative work of those who possess incomparable talent and vision are often  lost in their own time only to attain rightful acclaim by future generations.

Before The Storm--Apache 1906--Edward Curtis

Before The Storm–Apache 1906–Edward Curtis

I commend Short Nights Of The Shadow Catcher to all who have interest in poignant literature surrounding our first Americans.

Other books I have posted on gordonsgoodreads by Timothy Egan include The Worst Hard Time and The Big Burn.  Utilize the search tab found here.

Timothy Egan’s Fascinating Read For Those Who Watched Dust Bowl on PBS

The Ken Burns PBS special Dust Bowl could well have been based upon Tim Egan’s book The Worst Hard Time. Although Egan appeared in the  television special, his book takes the reader on an even more vivid journey.  Of course it is also in the Dust Bowl that begins Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

The Worst Hard Time bTimothy Egan dramatizes remarkable similarities between the Great Depression of the 1920s and the 1930s and the Great Recession of 2008-2011. The land grab in the High Plains, the breaking of the virgin sod, and the rampant speculation in wheat by homesteaders and suitcase farmers alike all fueled by easy money.  Sounds a lot like no income check mortgages home equity loans!

If you interchange  a few names: Housing Bubble for High Plains land, wheat speculation for Mortgage Backed Securities and suitcase farmers for real estate and Wall Street speculators Tim Egan could have very well been describing today’s financial crisis.

Egan wrote The Worst Hard Time in 2005 and uncannily described exactly what was coming in the next Worst Hard Time! 

Another fine Tim Egan book is The Big Burn which includes many additional lessons on what happens when financial speculation and politics trumps common sense. It is all about Teddy Roosevelt, the environment and our National Parks.

Both books are timely reads.