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This review is taken from PN Review 118, Volume 24 Number 2, November - December 1997.

WHEN MEN WERE MEN, BY JINGO! MICHAEL LIND, The Alamo (Houghton Mifflin) $25.00

First, full marks to Michael Lind for undertaking his 6006 line epic poem, The Alamo, a commemoration in verse of the 1836 siege in which Texas republicans fought to the last man against overwhelming Mexican force; a signal event in Texas lore and not unimportant in American mythology albeit of not quite the central importance that Lind ascribes to it. In an American culture which rewards the blinkered specialist over the generalist, Lind, a political writer, neo-conservative tractitian, and popular novelist, is to be congratulated for his willingness to cross the boundaries of genre and form. Lind's effort was criticised (savaged, actually) in The New York Times by the classicist and liberal polemicist Garry Wills as 'something not worth doing that is done ill.' But I prefer my father's 'something worth doing is worth doing badly' as counsel against timidity and narrowness. However, while I admire Lind's attempt, it's impossible not to question his execution.

Lind hopes to resuscitate the epic for what is, of course, - if Homer had only known! - the epic's greatest subject: America. That the epic has not left even a trace in America, Lind ascribes to literary factors (America's history, he correctly notes, is co-terminous with Romanticism and Modernism so their poetics subsumed the classical epic) but above all to the dominance of an effete and elitist literary culture; one sufficiently powerful to exert its hegemony yet so unsure of its voice that it affects an English accent (or should I ...


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