Buffalo Bill's America
Louis S. Warren
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Buy *Buffalo Bill's America: William Cody and the Wild West Show* by Louis S. Warren online

Buffalo Bill's America: William Cody and the Wild West Show
Louis S. Warren
Knopf
Hardcover
672 pages
October 2005
rated 5 of 5 possible stars
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Warren writes about William Cody with enthusiasm and obvious affection without losing his sense of historical impartiality. While admitting and exploring the many falsehoods that Cody invented, Warren still conveys respect for his subject and invites the reader to a sense of affection with the man who charmed America for several decades.

For all the wonderful insight in William Codyís life and personal attitudes, Buffalo Billís America is about just that. Warren uses the phenomenon of he Wild West Show and of Buffalo Bill-- the act, not the man-- as a focus for exploring America and the western world at large during the tumultuous turning of the century. Using the show as a platform, Warren examines and explains race relations, gender politics, international tensions, national infrastructure, and the themes of Bram Stokerís Dracula. His conclusions are sometimes arguable, but never unsupported or irrational. The interaction between Buffalo Bill, his show, and every aspect of American life in their time are revealed like the pieces of a good mystery, with connections that seem obvious after the revelation but impossible beforehand. The insights this single entertainment offers into the daily life of the past are sweeping and frighteningly intimate.

With frequent use of first person accounts and genuine compassion for the figures of his history, Warren guides the reader to a sympathy with Americans of Buffalo Billís era that is both unusual and absolutely necessary to any real understanding of social behavior in that time. By removing the sense of distance that separates modern readers from the past, Buffalo Billís America lets readers find for themselves the many connections between the supposedly vanished days of the frontier and modern American attitudes.

Besides being an excellent biography, and beyond its use as a capsule tour of nineteenth-century American history, Buffalo Billís America offers a distinct way to use that knowledge. Warren uses Buffalo Bill not just to connect the real physical events of his era, but to highlight the story that America was busy telling itself about its own progress, and how that story shaped both the actions and expectations of the America people for over a century. This view of history as an interactive, many layered narrative makes the past a living, uncertain period just like the present, instead of an inevitable march of dry events.

Buffalo Billís America: William Cody and the Wild West Show is history at its best. Far from the dry, academic recounting of ďone damn thing after anotherĒ that drives so many away from history, this is the compelling unification of those disparate facts and empty dates into a compelling, vital story, one that after all these years is still not quite over. To understand the impression left on the country by one man, to uncover the truth in our stories about ourselves, or just for the sheer pleasure to be founding one of the greatest shows performed, Louis S. Warren invites the modern world to journey through Buffalo Billís America.



Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Sarah Meador, 2006

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