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Rabbit Boss
by Thomas Sanchez

To:                ALL                   Date:    02/18
From:   ZGPG28A    CARLA GLADSTONE       Time:    12:25 PM

Rabbit Boss: few comments have appeared recently other than 
Barbara's saying that she was half-way through.   I have    
finished reading it, which is not the same thing as saying I
have read it all.  I read about 100 pages and couldn't stand
it any longer.  Mr Sanchez may have an important story to   
tell, but the way in which he choses to tell it demands more
from the reader than I am willing to give.                  
The writing in RB makes me think of a kind of giant         
peep-show: a movie is being shown on the other side of a    
wall.  You get to see fragments of the movie through a few  
holes in the wall, but you don't ever get to see the entire 
screen at one time, and you have no reason to believe that  
the projectionist is showing the movie reels in             
chronological order.  If the movie is sufficiently          
compelling you will persevere and perhaps you'll be able to 
reassemble the fragments in your mind.   But it's a         
challenging exercise and you've got to ask yourself "Is it  
worth it?"                                                  
Have any of you found more in this book than I have?        
Carla from The Nation's Capital                             

===============   Reply    1 of Note   68 =================

To: ZGPG28A CARLA GLADSTONE Date: 02/18 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 2:24 PM I found myself getting incredibly impatient with RABBIT BOSS myself initially. I particularly had to skim over some of the earlier scenes involving the rituals that involved the Indians just prior to the white men appearing. If I tried to read them slowly and make sure that I was comprehending each sentence, I'd still be at the beginning. The scenes that have hooked me on finishing it were the hunting scene in which Joe guides the group of white, middle class bow hunters and the contrasting one in which the Joe (as a boy) when leaving the government school kills a deer with a small stone knife after jumping onto it's back. I was also captured by the relationship between the boy called Bob (I'm assuming that was Joe) and Mr. Fixa. I am now about two-thirds of the way through and am sure that I will finish it because I've found just enough of those brilliant moments to sustain me. As Carla says though, it is a very difficult book to follow because of the switching back and forth in time and characters...and the characters are even identified by different names in some instances. However, Sanchez is communicating the quality of bewilderment felt by the Indians as they confront this absolutely totally different way of looking at the world that is embodied in the European and Oriental peoples who appeared among them. One almost wonders if there was ever even a glimmer of hope for communication. Barbara =============== Reply 2 of Note 68 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 02/18 From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 8:53 PM I finished Rabbit Boss several weeks ago. Was curious to hear what others had to say about it. I thought the spirit like (or ritual) section didn't add to the book or should have been shorter as it didn't sustain my interest, but I liked the rest of the book. I believe Captain Rex, Bob, and Joe Birdsong all followed G (ayabac? It was a library book and I don't have it for reference) in that order. A thing that stands out in my mind was how FORD became the symbolism of the ever present white oppressor to me and triggered a memory I had from the movie ET when the police officers were all walking across the yard with key chains jangling from their hips, another oppressive symbol--LAW ENFORCEMENT. It was a good book, does anyone know anything about the author other than what was on the dustjacket? Barb Hill =============== Reply 3 of Note 68 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 02/19 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 8:25 AM Barbara-- Nice to see your note. I was starting to think that Carla, Allen and I were the only ones reading it. No, I don't know anything more about Sanchez...maybe Theresa does. I kept thinking that Bob and Joe Birdsong were one and the same...again, I'm only at the part where the other Washo have taken "Bob" from the government I wrong? Barbara =============== Reply 4 of Note 68 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 02/20 From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 0:31 AM The jumping around in time made it hard to keep track of, especially if you are trying to remember the sequence of events later. If I can trust my memory-Bob was taken from his sick Grandmother (G's wife) who was burned along with her house during the time of the sickness. He was taken to a couple who kept him in a shed for weeks, scrubbed him up and put him to work for a time then traded him off to an old man who gave him the name Bob. After the old man died Bob left for Frisco to find the gorilla in the jeans ad. He later hopped on a train and got taken farther than he wanted to go etc. Joe is the one who as a kid saw his older sister raped when they were taking her for her Becoming a woman ceremony. As a young man he worked on a ranch breaking horses, mending fences etc. He took the hunters out to hunt the rabbits. He was the one the government tried to buy (or steal) his house and land and he went off to find proof of his right to the land. I hope I have that right. Barbara Hill =============== Reply 5 of Note 68 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 02/20 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 9:15 AM Barbara-- You're exactly right. I just read the rape scene last night and realized that Hallelujah Bob was the Bob who lived with Mr. Fixa and that the brother who was kneed in the groin at the Becoming a Woman ceremony was Joe. Before, as they moved back and forth in time getting closer to the present day, I kept thinking that Joe was going to appear before he did. That rape scene was probably the best illustration of what feminists say that rape act of violence, not sex...that I've seen in a long time. Our discussion of Nat Turner has brought this concept back to me and, then, here is this perfect illustration. I had a hard time reading it. And their reaction afterward was arresting. After Bob is beaten up, with enough blood in his eyes that he can't see, his son is totally incapacitated by being kneed and kicked and his daughter raped by four men, he says that this has happened before and they must go on, that they have to complete the ceremony. And, the daughter proceeds with the race up the mountain. When I write it here, it sounds impossible. But, in the book, it becomes who they are. Thought of what Steve said about us becoming a society of victims. Bob and his family knew that they were so outside the protection of white law that there was no choice but to continue. And, then, you have the answer to the mystery of why Joe won't work with Ben Dora. But, how incredible that this was the only method he had to respond to what was done to his sister. Would be interested to hear your (and anyone else's) thoughts about this scene. Barbara =============== Reply 6 of Note 68 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 02/20 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 10:26 AM Barb-- I also checked on Thomas Sanchez in Homework Helper (see my note regarding it) and found only one reference to him which quotes some lines from MILE ZERO, which is listed as his most recent novel on the book jacket, but that was in the 1980s. Barbara =============== Reply 7 of Note 68 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 02/21 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 1:17 AM Sorry, folks. I gave up on RABBIT BOSS. Just couldn't slog through it, despite its being set in an area I know and love. My parents have a summer cabin in Blairsden and I've been spending time there for the last 30 years. Sanchez certainly has something to say, but his writing style is way too turgid for me. Does anyone know if this was his first published work? Ruth, in wet and rainy CA =============== Reply 8 of Note 68 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 02/21 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 11:22 AM Ruth-- In my copy of RB, it says that: "Thomas Sanchez spent his youth in northern California, where he began writing RABBIT BOSS, his first novel, on a cattle ranch at the age of twenty-one. One year later, he received a master's degree from San Francisco State University. After publishing a second novel, Zootsuit Murders, in the late 1970's, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Mile Zero, his third and latest novel, was written during the 1980's on the island of Key West. Sanchez presently divides his time between California and Florida." The one reference I found to Sanchez on Homework Helper was a quote from MILE ZERO describing Florida. It was published in a Floridian literary magazine and was actually a pretty impressive quote. And doesn't ZOOTSUIT MURDERS sound familiar? I'm still saddled with that feeling that I am required to finish books. In this case, I think it's paid off because I don't think this book hits its stride until about half-way through. Barbara =============== Reply 9 of Note 68 =================  
To: ZGPG28A CARLA GLADSTONE Date: 02/28 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 1:42 AM All right, folks: I've finally made it through RABBIT BOSS. I'm relieved to see that I'm not the only one who had difficulties with it, though not quite the same as those that have been mentioned here so far. The jumping back and forth in time was a bit of a problem -- I had to look back a few times to check on which character was which -- but in general I was able to keep things straight and don't see this narrative approach as a fundamental flaw. My reactions to RB were deeply mixed; on one hand I thought what Sanchez has to tell us about the Washo tribe - their way of life and its destruction by the settlement of the West by whites -- compelling and vital, but have some basic problems with the way he goes about telling it. To put it as plainly as possible, Sanchez' writing is no fun to read; the effort one must expend to slog through his pages-long, monotonous paragraphs is not repaid. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that for the first half of the book there is very little action; in particular I found the minutely detailed description of the Washo culture in the book's earliest period quite a chore to get through, and in spite of myself skimmed over some passages out of desperation to get through the chapter. A couple of weeks ago Ruth characterized RB as "over- written", a judgement with which I concur. There were many passages wherein I detected a straining for effect, with odd word choices or metaphors that fall flat. In the middle of the book, Sanchez becomes quite fond of the word "slam" and its variants, going so far at one point as to refer to "the continuous slam of dust that rose up from the wagons in the heat." (Dust slamming? How's that again?) And from much later in the novel: "Over his head the light went out of the sky everywhere and the stars danced through the thin mountain air like drunken dogs." In my estimation there is something about this imagery that just doesn't connect, and add to the overall impression I had of the English language being used as a blunt instrument. It's a pity that the book's unreadability will dis- courage people from finishing it, because the story Sanchez has to tell -- and his knowledge of his subject is obviously deep -- is one that needs to be heard. That the establishment of American civilization brought with it the annihilation of a millennia-old way of life is hardly a pleasant fact to face up to, and most likely beyond any one person's comprehension, but to turn away from it is to shut ourselves off from a true understanding of this nation's history. The overall plan of the novel -- to illuminate the Indian experience as a whole -- is well conceived and Sanchez' tremendous dedication to his subject cannot be questioned. However, the book's flawed execution will most likely serve to insure that he will, by and large, preach only to the converted, which is, given the importance of his message, most unfortunate. Allen =============== Reply 10 of Note 68 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 02/28 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 7:38 PM Excellent points, Allen. I'm STILL about 75 pages from the end, primarily because my life went back into overdrive last Friday...the last half of the book has actually been far more readable for me. I thought one of the most important facets of this book was how utterly unthreatening the Washo were to the whites who settled their region. The fact is emphasized by the excerpt from a report by the Secretary of the Interior in 1866 which proceeds the novel. It seems to underline the tragedy of it. Barb =============== Reply 11 of Note 68 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 03/01 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 5:10 PM Barbara: Despite the many reservations I have about RB (I've only mentioned some of them), I have to emphasize that the book permanently changed the way I think about a subject that I have never spent any significant amount of time either reading or thinking about. I never learned a thing about it in school, for one, and ironically I attended a high shool that had been named after the chief- tain of the long-vanished tribe that once inhabited the area where I grew up. Your remark about how unthreatening the Washo were to the whites reminded me of a thought that struck me repeatedly as I read: the Indians were doomed from the start, no matter what they did. If peacable, they would be treated as though they hardly existed, as the settlers fenced off, deforested and plowed up their hunting grounds; if warlike, any resistance to the white's encroachment would simply provide an excuse for the use of whatever degree of violence deemed necessary to quell the threat. The catch-22 that the Indians found themselves trapped in is acutely pointed up by the ways in which they were viewed by the whites: either they were "rabbit- blooded", and thus contemptible, or else they were heathen savages who would cut one's throat in one's sleep. The idea that the Washo had their own culture, worthy of respect and understanding, was a thought that the settler's mindset was utterly incapable of accomodating. When one re-reads the excerpt from the report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs after having read the novel, it is plainly revealed as a classic case of blaming the victim. After having their livelihoods destroyed by the intrusion of the whites onto their lands and suffered the effects of the abrupt introduction of alcohol (the amount of drinking that goes on in RB is truly phenomenal) it's small wonder that they might appear to be "indolent" or "morally degraded." One can not read this book without being sick at heart over these proud, self-reliant people being reduced to scavenging from the garbage of their conquerors to scrape out a bare existence. If nothing else, RB does provide an example of the power that fiction has to illuminate history; by giving us this detailed examination of these few members of a single small tribe, Sanchez allows us to imagine similar tragedies being played out, across the continent and over the centuries. Although I would hesitate to recommend this novel to anyone not already intensely interested in the subject it deals with, I'm glad that I read it and since I certainly would not have done so outside this group's framework, I'd like to thank Theresa for bringing it to our attention. <>



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