It’s been a little while since the last update, so I thought I’d put out a quick note about the Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. I’m reading it based on a friends suggestion, and overall it seems to be a good pick. The first chapter was tedious to say the least, and I actually entertained thoughts of putting it aside. The language is painstakingly descriptive at times. If any of you have thought Lord of the Rings to be a bit indulgent, I would not be surprised if Tolkien read Cooper and thought the same thing. It certainly took a bit to get used to, but it has had some great payoff.
My perseverance has paid off, though, as often the story and writing is exceptional. Here’s a paragraph that I love. Hawkeye is the speaker in this quote. He is a white man that has grown up with the Indians and is a peerless scout and warrior. He is describing the resting place that the party he is leading will be resting at that night.
“Few live who know the block-house was ever raised,” was the slow and musing answer; “ ‘tis not often that books are made, and narratives written, of such a scrimmage as was here fou’t atween the Mohicans and the Mohawks, in a war of their own waging. I was then a younker, and went out with the Delawares, because I know’d they were a scandalized and wronged race. Forty days and forty nights did the imps crave our blood around this pile of logs, which I designed and partly reared, being, as you’ll remember, no Indian myself, but a man without a cross. The Delawares lent themselves to the work, and we made it good, ten to twenty, until our numbers were nearly equal, and then we sallied out upon the hounds, and not a man of them ever got back to tell the fate of his party. Yes, yes; I was then young, and new to the sight of blood; and not relishing the thought that creatures who had spirits like myself should lay on the naked ground, to be torn asunder by beasts, or to bleach in the rains, I buried the dead with my own hands, under that very little hillock where you have placed yourselves; and no bad seat does it make neither, though it be raised by the bones of mortal men”
It may take you a few reads to catch all the meaning in it. There are a lot of strange word usages, and some prolonged punctuation. It’s almost like Cooper is scared of using a period. But it is a stirring paragraph and one I keep going back to.
I’m about half way through the book, so I should have a review by the end of the month. During the weekend of April 25th, I’ll be doing a little reenactment of this story with a hiking trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. Should be a great time.