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The magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of a stranger in his native land A young Native American, Abel has come home from a foreign war to find himself caught between two worlds. The first is the world of his father's, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons, the harsh beauty of the land, and the ancient rites and traditions of his people. But the other world -- The magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of a stranger in his native land A young Native American, Abel has come home from a foreign war to find himself caught between two worlds. The first is the world of his father's, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons, the harsh beauty of the land, and the ancient rites and traditions of his people. But the other world -- modern, industrial America -- pulls at Abel, demanding his loyalty, claiming his soul, goading him into a destructive, compulsive cycle of dissipation and disgust. And the young man, torn in two, descends into hell.


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The magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of a stranger in his native land A young Native American, Abel has come home from a foreign war to find himself caught between two worlds. The first is the world of his father's, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons, the harsh beauty of the land, and the ancient rites and traditions of his people. But the other world -- The magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of a stranger in his native land A young Native American, Abel has come home from a foreign war to find himself caught between two worlds. The first is the world of his father's, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons, the harsh beauty of the land, and the ancient rites and traditions of his people. But the other world -- modern, industrial America -- pulls at Abel, demanding his loyalty, claiming his soul, goading him into a destructive, compulsive cycle of dissipation and disgust. And the young man, torn in two, descends into hell.

30 review for House Made of Dawn Limited Edition

  1. 4 out of 5

    Samadrita

    Neither do I claim a remote kinship with this bit of cultural heritage and the inheritance of alienation nor can I shed light on Momaday's true intentions behind parading a succession of disconcerting images each one more striking in its harsh beauty than the last. I do not know about the 'Native American Renaissance' or the precise mechanism at work behind the 'other'-ing of literature which aims to suture the guttings of history. Instead, I can only avow an understanding of a sterile rage that Neither do I claim a remote kinship with this bit of cultural heritage and the inheritance of alienation nor can I shed light on Momaday's true intentions behind parading a succession of disconcerting images each one more striking in its harsh beauty than the last. I do not know about the 'Native American Renaissance' or the precise mechanism at work behind the 'other'-ing of literature which aims to suture the guttings of history. Instead, I can only avow an understanding of a sterile rage that manifests in random acts of violence, a misery that goes without name or acknowledgement, and a fragmenting of the self that can only be pieced together as a summation of jagged, distorted reflections imprinted on broken shards of glass. Abel's tormented existence can be segmented into these key leitmotifs. I cannot even throw around phrases like 'hard to read, harder to decipher' especially since I slogged through this during a sad reading rut. There's no telling if it was my crucial inability for assessment or the book itself which hindered engagement on a more cerebral and intimate level. There was only the sound, little and soft. It was almost nothing in itself, the smallest seed of sound-but it took hold of the darkness and there was light; it took hold of the stillness and there was motion forever; it took hold of the silence and there was sound. It was almost nothing in itself, a single sound, a word-a word broken off at the darkest center of the night and let go in the awful void, forever and forever. For comparison's sake, I can come up with 'McCarthian' because the denseness of the prose merits the usage of such a term. Besides, only in Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West has the natural landscape emerged as such a malevolent and oppressive presence which at once suffocates and soothes with its raw, intractable loveliness. (Although Momaday and McCarthy were writing at the same time.) It is the land which superimposes itself on the human settlements which flourish in its bosom, hinting at the robust, revered relationship that Indians shared with their place of origin and source of sustenance. Here is a stretch of America inoculated against the passage of time, indifferent to the slow crawl of urbanization, an adherent of its own set of natural laws which not even the almighty white colonizer has been able to subvert and alter according to his convenience. I can also throw in a descriptor like 'Faulknerian' because of the abrupt shifts in perspective that flit from mind to mind and eventually culminate in the creation of a disjointed, nonlinear narrative of spiritual disquiet and emotional turmoil. One is left disoriented and dizzy, often casting about for a link, however tenuous, between the discordant streams of consciousness that speak of Abel's estrangement from native culture and his often thwarted pursuit of the severed bond with the only home he knows - the land of his ancestors. The limited expository portions of the narrative dovetail into a series of impressionistic vignettes - images of vigorous copulation between characters who fail to forge any lasting emotional connection beyond the moment of passion, the ritual dismemberment of a live chicken intercut with images of brutal beatings and the mountains, ravines and valleys of Jemez Pueblo which appear far more lifelike than the listless human actors who remain perennially under the spell of their redoubtable splendor. They were grave, so unspeakably grave. They were not merely sad or formal or devout; it was nothing like that. It was simply that they were grave, distant, intent upon something that she could not see. Their eyes were held upon some vision out of range, something away in the distance, some reality that she did not know, or even suspect. Despite the hauntingly plaintive tone of the novel, Abel's trajectory arcs towards a hopeful ending, one in which the land of his forefathers assuages the pain of his unmoored existence. Aptly, the book borrows its title from the Navajo Night Chant which circumscribes the Native American's identity around the rhythms of Pueblo life. Words ('house made of pollen, house made of dawn') of a forgotten mother tongue memorized by rote ultimately serve as a metaphorical bridge enabling Abel's re-connection with a lost legacy and, therefore, offering him a chance at redemption. He could see the canyon and the mountains and the sky. He could see the rain and the river and the fields beyond. He could see the dark hills at dawn. He was running, and under his breath he began to sing. There was no sound, and he had no voice; he had only the words of a song. And he went running on the rise of the song. House made of pollen, house made of dawn. Qtsedaba.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sean Forbes

    I found some amazing quotes from the text about the Southwestern landscape, which I loved. I felt, however, that the characters of Abel and his grandfather, Francisco, are an enigma to me. I don't have a lasting memory of them as vivid characters. But what does stand out in the text is the landscape. Perhaps that was Momaday's main point.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    House Made of Dawn is built on the model provided by John Joseph Mathews' Sundown and D'Arcy McNickle's The Surrounded: mixed race Indian finds himself unable to fit in on the reservation or in white culture. Momaday adds to this formula the fact that his protagonist, Abel, is an American war veteran as well as a more experimental narrative structure. Momaday's novel is important less because it breaks new ground thematically (it doesn't, really) than it is because of its status as the first House Made of Dawn is built on the model provided by John Joseph Mathews' Sundown and D'Arcy McNickle's The Surrounded: mixed race Indian finds himself unable to fit in on the reservation or in white culture. Momaday adds to this formula the fact that his protagonist, Abel, is an American war veteran as well as a more experimental narrative structure. Momaday's novel is important less because it breaks new ground thematically (it doesn't, really) than it is because of its status as the first novel by a Native American author to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize (and because it is seen as paving the way for the Native American literary boom that would follow) and because of its structural/formal experimentation. House Made of Dawn is not strictly linear and plays with stream of consciousness and native forms of expression. This experimentation is both the novel's strength and its weakness. It demands a close reading and attempts to break the narrative free of a more western approach to storytelling in favor of a mode of storytelling more appropriate to the Native American context; but in the shifting perspectives and nonlinear timeline, the characters can get lost. At no point in this novel did I feel I gained any real perspective into Abel (or into any of the other characters, for that matter). I remained at arm's length from each of them throughout. Abel's journey--from alienated returning vet to ex-con in the big city and back to the reservation, where he finds a sort of healing and begins to return to his people and a Native way of life--is one seen from a distance, not one felt. This echoes and illustrates the alienation that Abel must feel, but it also makes it difficult to care about anything that happens in the book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    This Pulitzer Prize winning novel tells the story of Abel, a young Native American torn between the reservation and the white world of settler colonialism, but it is also a book about the estrangement and alienation of postwar America in general. After fighting in WW II, Abel returns to the rez drunk and disturbed, and can't find his place in the world. After committing a terrible crime, his mental state is further unravelling... Major themes in the book are racism and alienation, the loss of This Pulitzer Prize winning novel tells the story of Abel, a young Native American torn between the reservation and the white world of settler colonialism, but it is also a book about the estrangement and alienation of postwar America in general. After fighting in WW II, Abel returns to the rez drunk and disturbed, and can't find his place in the world. After committing a terrible crime, his mental state is further unravelling... Major themes in the book are racism and alienation, the loss of cultural roots and the attempt to make the Native world disappear - but also the suffering of soldiers returning from the battleground, the universal strife for acceptance and dignity in human relations, the meaning of family and community, and the longing for spiritual connection. Like Abel, Momaday, a Kiowa, has lived on reservations and in mainstream society, and he modeled his protagonist after young men he met at Jemez Pueblo - even the crime he describes is based on a true incident. In his novel, he transforms his first-hand knowledge into a non-linear narrative full of beautiful descriptions of the American landscape, Native American stories and the depiction of cultural practices, as well as intricate portayals of the relationships between people and the way connection and disconnection work on the human psyche. I particularly liked how Momaday represented the importance of storytelling in the book, especially the oral tradition, "a very rich literature (...) always but one generation from extinction": "You see, for her (the grandmother's) words were medicine; they were magic and invisible. They came from nothing into sound and meaning. They were beyond price; they could neither be bought nor sold." "(...) that old woman was asking me to come directly into the presence of her mind and spirit." Another important passage talks about the hawk, and eagles are mentioned 26 times - which brings us to Brandon Hobson's NBA-nominated "Where the Dead Sit Talking", a book that not only shows a hawk on its cover, but in which the protagonist, Sequoyah ("sparrow"), is aked by his foster sibling Rosemary to read "House Made of Dawn"- and there are numerous connections between Hobson's and Momaday's books. So for everyone who, like me, loved "Where the Dead Sit Talking", this is required reading, because Momaday's shows new ways to read Sequoyah's story. A beautiful, haunting, and fascinating book that needs to be read and enjoyed slowly and with the highest concentration.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I read this book in one sitting. I found it extremely well written, and throughout I felt like I was existing with the characters. This book achingly portrayed the plight of Native Americans in the middle of the twentieth century, torn between the ancient and modern ways, scourged by alcoholism. I really liked the way Momaday interspersed past and present, the same way that people actually experience life, in their minds. Although this work saddens me on behalf of the protagonist, it does offer I read this book in one sitting. I found it extremely well written, and throughout I felt like I was existing with the characters. This book achingly portrayed the plight of Native Americans in the middle of the twentieth century, torn between the ancient and modern ways, scourged by alcoholism. I really liked the way Momaday interspersed past and present, the same way that people actually experience life, in their minds. Although this work saddens me on behalf of the protagonist, it does offer hope that the ancient ways will be continued by him, so I came away with a bittersweet taste.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    1.5 stars? This book annoyed me. It was jumbled and disjointed, which made it quite confusing. I recently read Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko and found myself comparing the stories and writing unfavorably for this book. They both deal with the topic of traumatized vets but Ceremony is more cohesive and relatable (I gave it 5 stars), although it was also non-linear. I honestly have little idea what happened in this book and I ended up skipping about 10 pages of the end because I just didn't care 1.5 stars? This book annoyed me. It was jumbled and disjointed, which made it quite confusing. I recently read Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko and found myself comparing the stories and writing unfavorably for this book. They both deal with the topic of traumatized vets but Ceremony is more cohesive and relatable (I gave it 5 stars), although it was also non-linear. I honestly have little idea what happened in this book and I ended up skipping about 10 pages of the end because I just didn't care enough to read them.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Not a book one can rush through, and with it's lush, poetic prose why would you? Momaday captures the intrisic connections between the natural, spiritual and human worlds that are part of the American Indian experience. Pulitzer prize winner 1969.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Feliks

    Folks, let's remember that this is a PULITZER PRIZE winning novel. If you yourself, didn't click with it, so be it. But ...who exactly are you? Please don't posture or preen when you write reviews on this silly website. Remember, the entire www.internet is junk, an embarrassment, trivial and trite. A cowardly fart of a technology that facilitates people farting in each other's faces. Meanwhile. M. Scott Momaday wrote his ***Pulitzer-Prize winning**** novel before you were even born, and nothing Folks, let's remember that this is a PULITZER PRIZE winning novel. If you yourself, didn't click with it, so be it. But ...who exactly are you? Please don't posture or preen when you write reviews on this silly website. Remember, the entire www.internet is junk, an embarrassment, trivial and trite. A cowardly fart of a technology that facilitates people farting in each other's faces. Meanwhile. M. Scott Momaday wrote his ***Pulitzer-Prize winning**** novel before you were even born, and nothing you do in your entire life will ever earn as much esteem as he did with this work. Most likely, you sit around surfing the web and playing with your smart-phone. Day after day and year after year. Yeah. So when you bash Momaday, remember that you --and I-- and everyone on this website are just pathetic losers compared to what this guy did. He made something of himself. Pulitzer prize winner! None of us can even remotely claim anything about ourselves as great as this. All I'm saying is: give credit where credit is due. There are some things in life which can't be achieved any other way except by talent and hard work. No one will ever be handed a Nobel Prize or a Pulitzer Prize ....for sitting on their duff and surfing the internet all their lives! That accomplishes ABSOLUTELY ZERO in this --or any other-- universe.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    Maybe two or three times in my life I have had an experience like the one I had while reading this book. At first blush, I have no reason to connect so intimately with this novel: the internal struggles of a Southwestern Indian, newly returned from WWII. But from the very first, Abel's hurts were my own. The book is true and sad and very human. I haven't read the Goodreads reviews yet, and still I know there will be dissension. More than half of this book is description of the rain or the mesas Maybe two or three times in my life I have had an experience like the one I had while reading this book. At first blush, I have no reason to connect so intimately with this novel: the internal struggles of a Southwestern Indian, newly returned from WWII. But from the very first, Abel's hurts were my own. The book is true and sad and very human. I haven't read the Goodreads reviews yet, and still I know there will be dissension. More than half of this book is description of the rain or the mesas or the dawn or Abel splitting wood. There is little dialogue, some ambiguity in plot, and a hopping of narrators that can be jarring. But Momaday's words bored straight into my frontal lobe, and I was honestly riveted for five full pages of description of a rainstorm--more than riveted. Moved. I will read this book again, but it moves immediately into my top 10. So there.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bob Rosenow

    This was more confusing and obscure than The Sound and The Fury. I suppose the Pulitzer committee was impressed by it's veneer of native American spiritualism. I think it's an unreadable construction of meaningless imagery, with fewer than ten pages of dialogue in the whole book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    J.G. Keely

    Momaday's now-famous book has more social and political importance than literary. Like the genre it ushered in, it may have been positive for the writer in general, but often relied upon a cliche racist/anti-racist dichotomy played through vague and often meaningless metaphor. The author's busy mind has made a complex work, but not one with any central point or in-depth exploration. The 1970s New Age movement was a combination of many different world philosophies, attempting to find some common Momaday's now-famous book has more social and political importance than literary. Like the genre it ushered in, it may have been positive for the writer in general, but often relied upon a cliche racist/anti-racist dichotomy played through vague and often meaningless metaphor. The author's busy mind has made a complex work, but not one with any central point or in-depth exploration. The 1970s New Age movement was a combination of many different world philosophies, attempting to find some common ground for humanity that might soften the Hegemonic West. Unfortunately, without a rhetorical basis, this movement provided us with mere watered-down generalism. It is now a popular personal philosophy because it is so vague that it can be used to support any concept and ideal. Momaday falls into this same trap with his erratic and varied text, which started out as a poetic series. This all ended in Momaday's premature Pulitzer, and he's sat steadfastly on that laurel ever since, and given us no more reason to presume he deserved it. The prize committee was clearly interested in following civil rights with a politically correct investment in 'diversity'. The only problem is that Momaday's work is as fundamentally colonized as Kipling's. His presentation of 'native' themes and storytelling methods is a fairly thin veil over what is not as much a Native American novel as just an American novel. The Native culture Momaday represented was already overwritten by the dominant western culture. Though Momaday tried to inject some cultural understanding and 'oral traditions' into his book, in the end it is little more than a descendant of Faulkner's. Not a badly written one, but neither is it focused enough to represent some cultural 'changing of the guard'.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Edwin Priest

    You sit down to the table. It is old and stained and pitted. The light comes in sideways from the dirty opaque window on your left, with little flecks of dust floating lazily in the orange evening sunlight. The stew sits in front of you, redolent with the essence of the Native American Southwest. Each ingredient is tangible and distinctive, the warm pieces of pork, the soft orange butternut squash, the posole, the flecked pinto beans, the coarse pieces of onion and fine pieces of minced garlic, You sit down to the table. It is old and stained and pitted. The light comes in sideways from the dirty opaque window on your left, with little flecks of dust floating lazily in the orange evening sunlight. The stew sits in front of you, redolent with the essence of the Native American Southwest. Each ingredient is tangible and distinctive, the warm pieces of pork, the soft orange butternut squash, the posole, the flecked pinto beans, the coarse pieces of onion and fine pieces of minced garlic, the bright green cilantro. Steam rises from the bowl as you pick up your spoon and gently the aromas stir up memories, of trips to church, of family arguments, of childhood friends, of an old lover. You take our first bite. It is almost overpowering, each flavor palpable in your mouth: the warm cumin, the rich dark ancho chile, the bright bite of serrano, the hint of cinnamon and the oregano, especially the oregano. And yet they blend together to make something more, something reminiscent of………… a sunrise, the rustling of autumn tree leaves, the call of a crow, your bare feet, dirty and hot in the afternoon sand, the smell of smoke from a mesquite-wood fire, flies buzzing in the sultry heat of the afternoon, and mostly blood, blood and the tears of your ancestors. I love Southwest stew, and in the same way, I loved this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I am SO glad I ignored the negative reviews of this book, and am now frankly suspicious that some of the bad reviews may come out of cultural biases. This book reads like many other modern (white, male) writers that I have loved - with some stream-of-consciousness and slipping back and forth between present and past - but I feel like some of the critiques I read have a whiff of culturally-biased criticism based on the fact that Momaday is Native American - that this book is "incoherent" or I am SO glad I ignored the negative reviews of this book, and am now frankly suspicious that some of the bad reviews may come out of cultural biases. This book reads like many other modern (white, male) writers that I have loved - with some stream-of-consciousness and slipping back and forth between present and past - but I feel like some of the critiques I read have a whiff of culturally-biased criticism based on the fact that Momaday is Native American - that this book is "incoherent" or "scattered" or "erratic" or "obscure" instead of intellectually challenging and admirable. This is a beautiful book which does challenge the reader, Infinite Jestthe way Literature capital L should do. On top of the enjoyment of being challenged by the book to figure out what is going on, this might be the most beautifully descriptive book I have every read. Its sense of color and place was just incredible to me. I generally have no patience for descriptions - but what Momaday did in this book was astounding. I've never had such a vivid sense of place. I am in such admiration that he could use words to paint such amazing images.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Allie Riley

    This is a fascinating novel but for me it was hard to follow. I don't know if it was the shifting viewpoints and/or the fact that I appear to be coming down with a cold, but it took me far longer to read than I thought for. Many paragraphs had to be reread several times. The descriptive passages are gorgeous - you can tell the author is also a poet. As far as I could determine, the plot is as follows. Abel, a Native American, has grown up with his grandfather's stories and heritage. He learnt to This is a fascinating novel but for me it was hard to follow. I don't know if it was the shifting viewpoints and/or the fact that I appear to be coming down with a cold, but it took me far longer to read than I thought for. Many paragraphs had to be reread several times. The descriptive passages are gorgeous - you can tell the author is also a poet. As far as I could determine, the plot is as follows. Abel, a Native American, has grown up with his grandfather's stories and heritage. He learnt to hunt with him and enjoyed running. Running seems to be a recurrent motif. He serves in the army in an unspecified war (presumably WWII). One supposes that he finds the transition to civilian life and the culture clash with his own heritage difficult to handle, because he murders a man with albinism since he believes him to be a snake. (According to the notes at the back, this is based on an actual incident known to the author where a similar defence was used). On his release from prison he is in an even worse state than before and finds it increasingly difficult to adjust to normal life. Unable to hold down a job, he turns to the comfort of drink, "borrowing" money from friends to sustain the habit. On two occasions he is badly beaten up - the latter of the two results in hospitalization. I did not feel that the characters were particularly well known to me by the end of the novel. The motives of Abel, in particular, were difficult to determine. In many ways, he reminded me of Meursault from Camus' L'Etranger. This was especially illustrated by his seeming detachment from himself when he commits the afore-mentioned murder and called to mind the murder scene in L'Etranger where, if I recall correctly, the heat of the day was blamed. Since Abel appears to feel he doesn't belong anywhere especially, it seems to me that there are indeed parallels between the two characters. This novel is worth reading if only for the beautiful descriptive passages alone. But it is a novel which requires thought & hard work. Recommended, but don't read it if you have a cold brewing!!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Zefyr

    Okay, so, this is such a disjointed novel, told via descriptions of the settings of memories, and I read it so long ago, that it's hard to remember the whole picture or even much of the plot, but I had noted this quote down: But the shoes were brown and white. They were new, almost, and shiny and beautiful; and they squeaked when he walked. In the only frame of reference he had ever known, they called attention to themselves simply, honestly. They were brown and white; they were finely crafted Okay, so, this is such a disjointed novel, told via descriptions of the settings of memories, and I read it so long ago, that it's hard to remember the whole picture or even much of the plot, but I had noted this quote down: But the shoes were brown and white. They were new, almost, and shiny and beautiful; and they squeaked when he walked. In the only frame of reference he had ever known, they called attention to themselves simply, honestly. They were brown and white; they were finely crafted and therefore admirable in the way that the work of a good potter or painter or silversmith is admirable: the object is beautiful in itself, worthy of appreciation as a whole and for its own sake. But now and beyond his former frame of reference, the shoes called attention to Abel. They were brown and white; they were conspicuously new and too large; they shone; they clattered and creaked. And they were nailed to his feet. There were enemies all around, and he knew that he was ridiculous in their eyes. And that, oh god, that I remember. In a weird weird way, the plot is almost there as a vehicle for the descriptions. It's intense and emotional and gut-tugging.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    This was an interesting read. I didn’t particularly like it but I didn’t dislike it either. It was about average to me. The prose is poetic and Mamaday’s descriptions of the landscape and even trivial matters such as the colors of a room were well crafted. However, the disjointed narrative and lack of detailed character development hurt the novel immensely and prevented it from being truly great in my humble opinion. I never felt a connection to the text or what story there was to be had, I This was an interesting read. I didn’t particularly like it but I didn’t dislike it either. It was about average to me. The prose is poetic and Mamaday’s descriptions of the landscape and even trivial matters such as the colors of a room were well crafted. However, the disjointed narrative and lack of detailed character development hurt the novel immensely and prevented it from being truly great in my humble opinion. I never felt a connection to the text or what story there was to be had, I merely went through the motions while reading the novel. It’s well written in terms of prose and descriptive style but it’s lacking in narrative and cohesion. I was disappointed by this one, I expected much more out of it but I don’t regret reading it and I can certainly see how it influenced later works such as Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Ceremony.”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    A while back a teacher and friend asked me: “What I wonder is, to what extent is Momaday a man of words on account of his adherence to his Kiowa side (the way Stegner adhered to his Norwegian side), and to what extent is he a man of words because he is a literary man? There is no doubt the genesis of the word-man comes from the native side, which mainlines right into that great sermon in House Made of Dawn, preached from the text, "In the beginning was the Word." Here are a couple of extracts A while back a teacher and friend asked me: “What I wonder is, to what extent is Momaday a man of words on account of his adherence to his Kiowa side (the way Stegner adhered to his Norwegian side), and to what extent is he a man of words because he is a literary man? There is no doubt the genesis of the word-man comes from the native side, which mainlines right into that great sermon in House Made of Dawn, preached from the text, "In the beginning was the Word." Here are a couple of extracts from the great sermon referenced: “… in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." … it was the Truth, all right, but it was more than the Truth. The truth was overgrown with fat and the fat was God. The fat as John's God and the fat stood between John and The truth.” … “In the white man’s world, language, too—and the way in which the white man thinks of it—has undergone a process of change. The white man takes such things as words and literatures for granted, as indeed he must, for nothing in his world is so commonplace. On every side of him there are words by the millions, an unending succession of pamphlets and papers, letters and books, bills and bulletins, commentaries and conversations. He has diluted and multiplied the Word, and words have begun to close in upon him. He is sated and insensitive; his regard for language—for the Word itself—as an instrument of creation has diminished nearly to the point of no return. It may be that he will perish by the word." (pp. 82-4) I’m going to try and back into an answer. First, House Made of Dawn is exceptional. It tells many stories, but Abel is the character at core. Although the book speaks of more than one place, the central place is Jemez, New Mexico. Abel is a composite of many American Indians. But, he is more than that. He is a WWII veteran who saw combat and there is enough in the way of flashback to recognize what we now call PTSD. He is a man who learns from his family and extended family. He suffers alcoholism and alienation. He loves and is loved by his grandfather. He knows women intimately. He suffers, is abused, kills, and is beaten almost to death. In short, he is portrayed in enough depth that it is easy to identify and empathize with him. Could a character like Abel have existed in other circumstances, i.e. outside of the Native American culture? Yes, suffering, alienation and abuse are common enough themes. Momaday has stated that Abel is a composite character based on people he knew. The literary man, Momaday, drew on his experience to draw his character. AND, by reading Momaday’s recounting of Abel’s past I can more easily identify with Guy Sajer’s The Forgotten Soldier and perhaps even my own father’s experience on Guadalcanal. Yes, Kiowa, but so much more than that. Second, Momaday is – by his own description – a poet. And, I seem to recall that he has suggested at least once that House Made of Dawn is an extended poem. When I read passages like this: “But the great feature of the valley was its size. It was almost too great for the eye to hold, strangely beautiful and full of distance. Such vastness makes for illusion, a kind of illusion that comprehends reality, and where it exists there is always wonder and exhilaration. He looked at the facets of a boulder that lay balanced on the edge of the land …” (p. 16) I read it sparely with pauses as with poetry: “The great feature of the valley was its size. almost too great for the eye to hold, strangely beautiful full of distance. vastness makes for illusion, illusion that comprehends reality, where it exists …” I’ve read several interviews with Momaday. One that sticks with me is done by Matthias Schubnell. They had been talking about Emily Dickinson whom Momaday describes, perhaps lovingly, as “nearly infinite in her expression” with “a kind of regard for language that a great writer must have…. I think her survival was largely intellectual.” Schubnell follows up with this: “And you see that function of creative work as a way to accommodate life in your own case?” Momaday responds: “Yes, and more and more so. … I believe that I fashion my own life out of words and images and that’s how I get by. If I didn’t do those things, I think that I would find my existence a problem of some sort. Writing gives expression to my spirit and to my mind, that’s a way of surviving of ordering one’s life. That’s a way of living, of making life acceptable to oneself.” * I’m not sure I have answered my friend’s question. I’m not sure he was looking for a definitive answer. I miss being in his seminar, where I first read Momaday. Not quite finished (I do go on), one more observation. I’ve sort of read Momaday backwards. I started with more recent Momaday works including: Rainy Mountain, The Man Made of Words and In the Bear’s House. In the Bear’s House is my favorite. It is a mature Momaday and it is just absolutely beautiful writing. It is, in my opinion, magical and it is Momaday at the height of his power with words. Momaday wrote House made of Dawn over two years when he was in his early thirties. He wrote In the Bear’s House at 65. Reading these two books and considering differences in Momaday’s age brings to mind these words from the Analects: “At fifteen I set my heart on learning; at thirty I took my stand; at forty I came to be free from doubts; at fifty I understood the Decree of Heaven; at sixty my ear was attuned; at seventy I followed my heart’s desire without overstepping the line.” ** *Conversations with N. Scott Momaday, ed. Matthias Schubnell. P. 84 ** Analects, Book II, Chap 4

  18. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    DNF at page 36. Might just be bad timing, but I could not focus on this.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Derek Emerson

    N. Scott Momaday's first novel, "House Made of Dawn," is noted by some critics as sparking a renaissance in Native American literature. Published in 1969, the novel won the Pulitzer Prize, rave reviews, and a place in the canon of contemporary literature. So, it is with some hesitation that I admit to not enjoying the novel too much. There seems to be an attempt at being elusive, at showing only part of what is happening, in a way many post-modern novels do. I actually enjoy many novels without N. Scott Momaday's first novel, "House Made of Dawn," is noted by some critics as sparking a renaissance in Native American literature. Published in 1969, the novel won the Pulitzer Prize, rave reviews, and a place in the canon of contemporary literature. So, it is with some hesitation that I admit to not enjoying the novel too much. There seems to be an attempt at being elusive, at showing only part of what is happening, in a way many post-modern novels do. I actually enjoy many novels without the normal narrative, or rising plot structure, but Momaday's books just fails to connect the pieces when needed. The novel centers around Abel, who returns to his reservation following his time in World War II. Not long after arriving at home, he murders a man. We pick up the story seven years later in Los Angeles, when Abel is let out of jail. At first, we get the story (or lack thereof) from Abel's mind, but then it switches to the Priest of the Sun, John Big Bluff Tosamah, who gives a long sermon. The sermon shares many stories of the Kiowa tribe, to which Momaday belongs. The tales are interesting and create a better understanding of the Kiowa tribe, but the connection of these to Abel's situation is not clear. The last major section switches to Abel's friend, Ben Benally's, viewpoint of Abel. It is not a pretty picture. He cannot understand the way other Native Americans have assimilated to white culture, and he begins to drink and leaves his job. Eventually, he just disappears. The narrative comes full circle, and is at its strongest, in the final pages of the novel. Abel disappears so he can return home to care for his dying grandfather, and there seems to be a return to his starting point as he reenters the traditions of his heritage. As noted before, the novel is seen as creating a publishing spark for writers such as Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, and Sherman Alexie. Their novels seem are clearer in their narratives, but perhaps Momaday's challenging storyline reflects the struggle of Native Americans in contemporary life. It hits many of the themes that will dominate other novels, such as assimilation, alcohol abuse, racism, loss of tradition, and a return to Native American roots. Because of its influence, it is worth reading.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I felt this book bogged down with description. Like a high school student told to write a paper describing their favorite place. They ramble on, and on, and on, and never get anywhere. I didn't care who the characters were; mostly because they're never truely developed, and when people started dying I had to just shrug and think "oh well." The non-linear story telling was pointless and added nothing to the story except more confusion. Go ahead and tell me I didn't "get it," guy stuck between old I felt this book bogged down with description. Like a high school student told to write a paper describing their favorite place. They ramble on, and on, and on, and never get anywhere. I didn't care who the characters were; mostly because they're never truely developed, and when people started dying I had to just shrug and think "oh well." The non-linear story telling was pointless and added nothing to the story except more confusion. Go ahead and tell me I didn't "get it," guy stuck between old ways and new ways, comes back from war, spends time in prison, and is never really able to assimilate back into the real world. Seems to have sex with at least two women, kills a man. Whatever. The story was simple, but made incedibly complicated by pointless and meaningless description. Sorry, but I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone, and I'm a little surprised that it won the Pulitzer Prize. However, the part where Milly loses her baby is fantastic. This story could have been something spectacular, and it leaves me scratching my head as to why it is the way it is.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Thing Two

    Scott Momaday presents the story of Francesco, an old man living in the past. Woven into this story are the lives of other characters - Father Olguin, Abel, Tosomah - who live in the present, but also in the past. Momaday is exploring the past and its relationship with the present using dreams, myths, and symbols. Momaday is also a poet and artist, and his understanding of the oral tradition of storytelling comes across in his beautifully written sentences. However, and this is a big however, Scott Momaday presents the story of Francesco, an old man living in the past. Woven into this story are the lives of other characters - Father Olguin, Abel, Tosomah - who live in the present, but also in the past. Momaday is exploring the past and its relationship with the present using dreams, myths, and symbols. Momaday is also a poet and artist, and his understanding of the oral tradition of storytelling comes across in his beautifully written sentences. However, and this is a big however, this book is boring. It's confusing. Momaday jumps from past to present, from character to character, without any warning to the reader. I can't believe this book won a Pulitzer. Lovely man, lovely writing, boring book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This novel will need several readings to be completely appreciated. I write this review having read the novel for the second time in my life. House Made of Dawn requires active, attentive, and engaged readers. There are several narrative styles and time shifts back and forth. The prose is beautiful. Francisco and Able, grandfather and grandson, are characters whose actions and experiences illustrate Native American life as members try to hold on to their traditions and religion despite living on This novel will need several readings to be completely appreciated. I write this review having read the novel for the second time in my life. House Made of Dawn requires active, attentive, and engaged readers. There are several narrative styles and time shifts back and forth. The prose is beautiful. Francisco and Able, grandfather and grandson, are characters whose actions and experiences illustrate Native American life as members try to hold on to their traditions and religion despite living on reservations and being forced into mainstream American life. The novel exposes racism in different forms on the parts of both whites and Natives. There is pain and poverty and beauty and freedom in this novel. I plan to read it again in the future. A good investment of reading time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bad Horse

    The book is very Native American. I don't know if a book could have been "Native American" before the homogenization of Native Americans thru pow-wow culture and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but today there is a Native American way, and even a Native American accent, which I've found everywhere from the Creek of Florida, to the Iroqouis of New York, to the Hopi in New Mexico. The book is in four parts, and four is the number of wholeness to the Navajo (and perhaps to the Kiowa as well), just as The book is very Native American. I don't know if a book could have been "Native American" before the homogenization of Native Americans thru pow-wow culture and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but today there is a Native American way, and even a Native American accent, which I've found everywhere from the Creek of Florida, to the Iroqouis of New York, to the Hopi in New Mexico. The book is in four parts, and four is the number of wholeness to the Navajo (and perhaps to the Kiowa as well), just as three is to whites. More "Indian" is the refusal to discern "story" from "not-story", or to explain what it is about. I remember trying to learn to make blowgun darts from an old Creek in Georgia. I told him the seed-fluff I was using for fins was too tangled, and he turned his back on me and started doing something. I was angry until I noticed he was making a tool to straighten them. He was trying to solve my problem; he just didn't want to explain in words. Momaday uses lots of words, but in the Indian way, of observing and pointing things out, rather than the "white man" way, of categorizing and summarizing. By the end of the novel, I wanted some white man words. Realist, modernist, and especially post-modernist writing assumes that there is something unsavory about authorial intent, and that the job of the novelist is to record what is there. Along those same lines, this book is not an instantiation or proof of a theme, but a gestalt, and so we have ever-expanding circles, from Abel, to his father, to the white woman who fucks him, to the priest who doesn't realize he wants to fuck the woman, to the dead priest whose diary that priest reads. But can a novel work simply by reporting lifelike events, and trusting there is something worthwhile in them? No. If so, we would live life, or perhaps read newspapers, instead of reading novels. The author must know, or at least sense, some themes. Are these stories connected thematically? Most of the narrators want something from Abel, or from the Native Americans. Is that important? No commentator seems to think so, and I don't think so. Why are Father Olguin, Angela, and the other priests in the story? They have no narratively-significant connection to anything else in the story, yet take a third of the book. Possibly they are to illustrate other ways of failing to connect with others. The Sun Priest seems to be directly summarizing something thematic, in contradiction to the overall modus operandi of the book. Many people say the story is about Abel's inability to connect with either the Kiowa or the city. But there is less than one paragraph in the entire book about Abel's difficulty going back to the reservation after prison. If the story were about Abel's alienation from his own people, it would have to have something in it about why Abel is alienated from his own people, but it doesn't. If it is supposed to make a general point about the Native American condition of alienation from modern society, it would have to make a better case for why Abel is alienated from the city than the fact that he killed somebody and so is hassled by parole officers and social workers. Most Native Americans haven't killed anybody lately. This book would have made a good series of poems, or one good short story. But it isn't a novel, unless I'm missing the story. Stylistically, it is equal parts exhilerating and infuriating. You're either going to love or hate this stuff: In the early morning the land lay huge and sluggish, discernible only as a whole, with nothing in relief except its own sheer, brilliant margin as far away as the eye could see, and beyond that the nothingness of the sky. Silence lay like water on the land, and even the frenzy of the dogs below was feeble and a long time in finding the ear. Momaday has a poet's eye for fine descriptions, but sometimes he will describe the smoke curling from the houses before he has told us that there are houses. He throws up a barrage of details about the land without telling you where you are, and you'll have to read four paragraphs of similes about clouds and sunsets and hills before you realize you are in the same valley he has described three times already. And he has combined Faulkner's substitution of puzzles for depth with the affected ungrammaticality we'll see late in Cormac McCarthy. I think the Pulitzer committee chose the book for political reasons, but I don't think they were wrong to do so. With great power comes great responsibility. If you have the power to bring attention to the literary work of an entire neglected race, then you ought to do that sometimes.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn (1968) is one of those texts that require a certain kind of patience to read, especially in a world that has come to expect information to be reduced to fifteen and thirty second sound bites. The story is told in four distinct parts by different narrators, and the reader doesn’t always know who the point of view is coming from, or why. Even more disconcerting is the way in which the story is told in a nonlinear way: The explanations for many of the mysteries N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn (1968) is one of those texts that require a certain kind of patience to read, especially in a world that has come to expect information to be reduced to fifteen and thirty second sound bites. The story is told in four distinct parts by different narrators, and the reader doesn’t always know who the point of view is coming from, or why. Even more disconcerting is the way in which the story is told in a nonlinear way: The explanations for many of the mysteries in this story are provided in a fractured narrative that doesn’t become complete until the final pages of the book. I know that I had to go back several times and rethink a passage after realizing that the voice had changed or an explanation for an earlier situation is provided, and this can be extremely frustrating, especially in a book that that has less than 200 pages! This is also a book that can’t to be digested in one sitting; I’ve had to reflect on it through the lens of my experience as a first-generation American who understands that some cultural concepts are embedded in language, and nearly impossible to translate into the frame of another language. I’ve had to discuss this book with my peers, and hear their thoughts about what worked, and what didn’t. I’ve also chosen to read what others have written—both formally and informally—to gain a better understanding of how I feel about the book as a whole. This might be a little too much work for the average reader, but I feel this book, one of the first from a Native American writer to gain major recognition and critical acclaim, is an important contribution to Native American literature, and helps to provide some insight into the Native American experience. This story is told in four parts and, aside from part 3, The Night Chanter, is told through the lens of Native American storytelling conventions. The story revolves around Abel: At the beginning of the book he has returned from years abroad serving in WWII and arrives off the bus so drunk he falls into his grandfather’s arms without recognizing him. As the story progresses, the book takes on a timeless quality; the mysteries of the book and Abel’s profound alienation from both Indian and white cultures are revealed in glimpses and flashbacks. This can be very frustrating for a reader that isn’t familiar with this storytelling convention, but this different concept and appreciation of time is important to Native American culture and is reinforced by the orality of their traditions. Time becomes a central theme—all of the chapters are dated—and the sensation of being somehow outside of time pervades the entire story. This is especially important for Abel, because he is attempting to reintegrate with his tribe, but he has been gone for years and has lost his connection to the ebb and flow of his culture, which leads to a worsening of his alcoholism and an ill-fated affair with a married white woman who briefly visits the area. Events come to a head when Abel kills an albino in his village while in a drunken stupor, claiming the man is a demon spirit, and is sentenced to prison for almost seven years. As the story winds to its conclusion the question remains: Will Abel be able to find his way back into the rhythms of his world, or will he remain isolated and lost, and ultimately destroy himself? Without a doubt, this book is not intended for light reading: the language reveals and reflects a distinct Native American landscape and, in a subtle and oblique way, stresses how this relationship demonstrates the manner in which anyone can be recuperated by adopting a powerful cultural narrative. The novel spends a great deal of time reflecting on the meaning of words and how it takes time and patience to communicate, especially when these words are used to accomplish the goal of speaking across cultures to create understanding. I enjoyed the prose descriptions of the southwest and gained insight into this storytelling convention, but will admit that a great deal of patience is required to make it to the end of the story and even then many loose ends are left dangling. The emphasis seems to be on the frame Momaday is creating and the use of a specific set of narrative techniques, and sometimes the story suffers for this. There are few likeable characters, and little time is spent on developing them to any degree. Nevertheless, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Native American culture and an oral tradition that is still young in developing a literary form.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    I first read House Made of Dawn in a 1970 class on modern American literature. The class had split, sometimes with great passion, into factions devoted to either Hemingway or Faulkner, with the key issue amounting to something like "clarity vs. complexity." When we showed up for the first class on House Made of Dawn, both factions were sure Momaday was on "our side." And of course, we were both both right and wrong. I start with that because I think it speaks to the importance of Momaday's I first read House Made of Dawn in a 1970 class on modern American literature. The class had split, sometimes with great passion, into factions devoted to either Hemingway or Faulkner, with the key issue amounting to something like "clarity vs. complexity." When we showed up for the first class on House Made of Dawn, both factions were sure Momaday was on "our side." And of course, we were both both right and wrong. I start with that because I think it speaks to the importance of Momaday's brilliant first novel. At the time it was presented in large part as the first important novel by a Native American writer (a judgment that today requires a string of footnotes, but is in some sense defensible). True enough and, especially for Native readers, the novel's meditation on tradition and modernity remains as compelling as it ever was. Like Momaday's memoir Way to Rainy Mountain, House confronts the problems of Natives in adjusting to a world that doesn't see them in any kind of 3-D form, if it sees them at all. Enmeshed in that, Momaday makes ti clear that he understands his relationship to the broad tradition of American and modern literature. The sections set in LA--with the unforgettable "Priest of the Sun" Tomasah (like Momaday a Kiowa) at the center--riff on Rinehart from Ralph Ellison's Invisile Man in a specifically Native voice. The (Hemingwayesque) scenes between Abel and Angela shimmer with erotic power; and those between Abel and the Albino echo the metaphysical unspeakablenss of Melville's white whale. And the writing itself, especially when Momaday centers on the southwestern landscape, is simply gorgeous. If you're only going to read a couple of books by Native writers--and you're shortchanging yourself if that's where you stop--this should join Leslie Silko's Ceremony, Ray YoungBear's Remnants of the First Earth, and Vine Deloria's collection of essays Custer Died for Your Sins, at the top of the list. If you want more, my "Native American" shelf has plenty of suggestions.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Xena

    Zooming in on the mesquite trees and the mountains and the lizards, landscape is a character that has its own psychology and dialogue. Nevertheless, the reader's vision of nature is through either an omniscient narrator or Abel's perception or the old man Francisco looking onto it. These layers create an understanding of how nature and man's mental stability are intertwined. Yet the juxtaposition of nature and the human psyche, whether it is the outcome of deliberate stylistic choice or not, is Zooming in on the mesquite trees and the mountains and the lizards, landscape is a character that has its own psychology and dialogue. Nevertheless, the reader's vision of nature is through either an omniscient narrator or Abel's perception or the old man Francisco looking onto it. These layers create an understanding of how nature and man's mental stability are intertwined. Yet the juxtaposition of nature and the human psyche, whether it is the outcome of deliberate stylistic choice or not, is not enough for the reader to understand the characters' motives or even trigger sympathy towards them. Momaday's lesson on history and colonization is rather expected and straightforward. A constant theme of nothingness takes over this major work to emphasize both frustration of the native people and their relationship with their land. Furthermore, the theme of nothingness is a reminder to the reader not to force interpretations or analysis onto the characters. The nature, regardless of its assistance in completing the puzzle of what's happening with the characters, will shift and become nothing rather than everything. The characters' lack of development or having their psyche externalized into nothing/everything could be seen as deliberate but could also be an escape from facing direct emotions or could simply be the result of the writer's incompetency.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Initially I had a hard time staying with this book as it jumped around but I'm glad I did. The imagery and the soulfulness in this book is worth it. It's short but not the type of book you can read quickly. Some poems in it too. Abel is an Indian but he's lived in the white world in the armed forces. But at times it's also Hispanic with the language and culture. It's multicultural long before the term came into use. If you ever wanted to know what a LSD trip would be like you get a masterful Initially I had a hard time staying with this book as it jumped around but I'm glad I did. The imagery and the soulfulness in this book is worth it. It's short but not the type of book you can read quickly. Some poems in it too. Abel is an Indian but he's lived in the white world in the armed forces. But at times it's also Hispanic with the language and culture. It's multicultural long before the term came into use. If you ever wanted to know what a LSD trip would be like you get a masterful treatment of a peyote induced trip. Momaday talks about words defeating the Indians and he is a master of words in this book describing everything in the human experience from scenery to destiny. It's heavy and melancholy as Abel, a veteran of WW II returns home to the rez in NM and has problems with alcohol. He kills a man and goes to prison. You keep hoping the best for him. Gets relocated to Los Angeles. Gets a job, loses job, drinks, and gets almost killed by a bully cop. He returns to the rez and the cycle of life. Momaday has me wanting to go out on a mesa and watch the sun rise by the time the book finishes.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Ugh, it's taking me too long to get through this book; about a third of the way in I decided to drop it. This book is beautifully written, but the focus is on the setting and the characters, and the plot is just not developing or moving enough for me. I don't have as much time to read as I used to, so if I don't either really enjoy reading a book, or feel I can profit from it in some way, I'm not going to waste my time - too many other books on my pile that I want to read. I never used to Ugh, it's taking me too long to get through this book; about a third of the way in I decided to drop it. This book is beautifully written, but the focus is on the setting and the characters, and the plot is just not developing or moving enough for me. I don't have as much time to read as I used to, so if I don't either really enjoy reading a book, or feel I can profit from it in some way, I'm not going to waste my time - too many other books on my pile that I want to read. I never used to abandon books, but I'm making the choice to do so more at this point in my life.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Seth Tomko

    I have really enjoyed Momaday's other writings, so I was surprised to discover how much I did not like this book. It's incomprehensible, and the characters are not engaging. There's some good description of the landscapes, but a novel needs more than that. I'd recommend so much else from Momaday but not this.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    This was astonishingly boring. When Momaday actually gets to the plot, it can be interesting and his vivid descriptions are great, but I can only can so much description of the landscape before I want to chuck this book across the room. I'm glad it was so short.

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