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Winter in the Blood (1974)

af James Welch

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652935,600 (3.63)37
Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:A contemporary classic from a major writer of the Native American renaissance ?? "Brilliant, brutal and, in my opinion, Welch's best work." ??Tommy Orange, The Washington Post
During his life, James Welch came to be regarded as a master of American prose, and his first novel, Winter in the Blood, is one of his most enduring works. The narrator of this beautiful, often disquieting novel is a young Native American man living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana. Sensitive and self-destructive, he searches for something that will bind him to the lands of his ancestors but is haunted by personal tragedy, the dissolution of his once proud heritage, and Montana's vast emptiness. Winter in the Blood is an evocative and unforgettable work of literature that will continue to move and inspire anyone who encounters it.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning transl
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Considered a founding text in the Native American Renaissance, James Welch’s 1974 debut novel (he was already a poet) received a 2021 Penguin Classics reissue with new remarks from Joy Harjo and Louise Erdrich giving it context. The unnamed narrator is a 32 year old member of the Blackfeet tribe in Montana. While his mother owns a successful ranch on the reservation, it’s fair to say he is somewhat lost and weighed down with grief, personal but also, surely, historical. Welch explores this grief with a taut poetic prose that is at turns realist and slightly surreal, grim and humorous, in a series of structured scenes over a short period of time that lead to new understanding.

In one such scene, the narrator visits a native elder, now blind, who lives alone in a crude cabin on the grassland. The elder claims he does not feel alone as he has the animals to talk to. Mockingly asked if the deer talk to him about the weather, he dismisses the jibe, but replies that the deer are not happy. The conversation continues:

“Not happy? But surely to a deer one year is as good as the next. How do you mean?”
“They are not happy with the way things are. They know what a bad time it is. They can tell by the moon when the world is cockeyed.”
“But that’s impossible.”
“They understand the signs. This earth is cockeyed.”


One thing I think I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that this earth is always cockeyed. It’s always a bad time. People are always seeing the end. That’s not wrong; the world as we know it does and always will end, though it’s also only a part of our story here and should not exclude awareness of the rest of that story. I think from reading this book that Welch would agree. Erdrich writes in her introduction, “I think it annoyed Welch that this book was called bleak. That world of bones and wind may be stark but it is filled with life, and life is stories.” Life, stories, spirit: these things endure and always will. ( )
  lelandleslie | Feb 24, 2024 |
'Winter In The Blood,' for a Welch novel, is intriguingly enough quite lackluster. The plot follows a few days in the life of a Native American man straddling his family's traditional world by day and a hedonistic/seedy underworld by night. The narrative leads to a climatic finale but this is only a metaphor. There is neither attraction nor passion in Welch's writing for this novel.

My personal belief is that Welch portrays the cynicism and directionless life of youth divorced from their heritage and history in 'Winter In The Blood.' But while his prose is excellent, his plot is exceptionally blank. Excessively bland for my taste. Would I recommend 'Winter In The Blood' to you dear reader? For its historic merit, yes. For its literary merit? No. ( )
  Amarj33t_5ingh | Jul 8, 2022 |
Winter in the Blood by James Welch. The days of a Blackfoot man who lives and works at his mother's Montana ranch.
The story begins with the man's mother, Theresa, informing him that his live-in girlfriend has not only left him but she's taken the only items of value he had, his electric razor and his shotgun. The news matters little, he seems to be an even-tempered young man though he wishes she hadn't taken his things. At some point this level-headedness becomes more clearly an indifference that extends to nearly everything around him. He sees his elderly, silent grandmother who never leaves the living room, yet there's no connection, and he gives no opinion, good or bad, when his mother suddenly comes home with a new husband who is now the boss in the ranch work.
The man, who is still referred to by many as his mother's boy, has to remind people that he's thirty-two years old. He and everyone he knows drinks heavily, switching bed partners and fighting, though these things are clearly just ways for killing time. It's when he allows himself to think about the deaths in his family that we find old wounds that haven't healed and have surely led to the indifference he seems to feel for everyday life. ( )
  mstrust | Nov 17, 2020 |
I read this book when it was first published in the 1970s and held onto it, recognizing that it was a good novel. Rereading it some forty years later, I am stunned with its beauty and precision. Welch was a poet and it shows in his careful use of language. Every vignette of the narrator's life is shown as it unfolds with such attention to detail that you can see it all laid out before you. With his drinking and his sexual encounters, he is trying simultaneously to numb himself still further and to connect with an always elusive sense of meaning and value. This futility, of course, is rooted in the history of the Indian people, which Welch makes personal through the stories of the narrator's grandparents who were both young adults when the White men came and rounded up the Indians into reservations. Anyone who wants to write should study this novel for how Welch builds the tension and reveals why the narrator lives the life he does. Then they should go back and read it again for the beauty of the language. ( )
1 stem PatsyMurray | Nov 7, 2020 |
I finally read this book because so many of the authors of my favorite books from the Native American Renaissance had cited it as an influential text. It was rough, but beautiful. Not a happy read, but definitely one worth reading. ( )
  jekka | Jan 24, 2020 |
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Bones should never tell a story
to a bad beginner. I ride
romantic to those words,
those foolish claims that he
was better than dirt, or rain
that bleached his cabin
white as bone. Scattered in the wind
Earthboy calls me from my dream:
Dirt is where the dreams must end.
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For my mother and father
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In the tall weeds of the borrow pit, I took a leak and watched the sorrel mare, her colt beside her, walk through burnt grass to the shady side of the log-and-mud cabin.
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Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:A contemporary classic from a major writer of the Native American renaissance ?? "Brilliant, brutal and, in my opinion, Welch's best work." ??Tommy Orange, The Washington Post
During his life, James Welch came to be regarded as a master of American prose, and his first novel, Winter in the Blood, is one of his most enduring works. The narrator of this beautiful, often disquieting novel is a young Native American man living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana. Sensitive and self-destructive, he searches for something that will bind him to the lands of his ancestors but is haunted by personal tragedy, the dissolution of his once proud heritage, and Montana's vast emptiness. Winter in the Blood is an evocative and unforgettable work of literature that will continue to move and inspire anyone who encounters it.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning transl

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