Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Late Start for July

Although this is my first review this month, I've been reading a lot. This book took a long time to finish, and I also have a three-book review of Lance Armstrong coming soon.

Great White Fathers: The Story of the Obsessive Quest to Create Mt. Rushmore by John Taliaferro - This lengthy volume is as much a biography of sculptor Gutzom Borglum as it is the story of his most famous work. It begins and ends with the author traveling the Black Hills region, which helps to set the geographic context of the tale. In between, Borglum's life story dominates the first half of the book and Mt. Rushmore fills the second. The biographical part is perhaps 50 pages too long, but it helps the reader to understand some of the conflicts Borglum had during his greatest project. The man was arrogant, abrasive, and accusatory. He often turned against people who were helping him, and he was terrible with money. His previous carving project on Georgia's Stone Mountain ended with Borglum fleeing the state and his benefactors hiring a new sculptor who promptly blasted Borglum's work off the mountainside. Even when work begins in South Dakota, the author devotes so much space to Borglum's other activities that the mountain becomes a background story. The artist was always scheming and begging for funding. The history of Rushmore after Borglum's death includes some interesting highlights, particularly the filming of Hitchcock's North by Northwest and the American Indian Movement's militant antics in the 1970s. The eight pages of black & white photos are exceptional, but more would have been helpful. Great White Fathers is worthwhile for the Rushmore fanatic, but the average reader would probably prefer something with more about the mountain and less about the artist.

Current tally: 54 books finished, 53 books acquired

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