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The Deerslayer

The Deerslayer - James Fenimore Cooper, Daniel H. Peck This book receives quite a bit of vitriolic language about how it's the "worst book ever written" and other predictably trite rantings of those who have different expectations than the book satisfies. I began this book with an open mind and with an interest in the writing style of an author I hadn't read before. Although I freely admit the prose is a bit longwinded, it contains some eloquent passages among the numerous pithy and dry paragraphs (think Romantic Period of literature and nature writing). Descriptions run a bit long in some cases and the characters set off on lengthy soliloquies at the oddest of times, but the book simply isn't without merit. It's a fairly unique voice offered in the age of Manifest Destiny and bigoted attitudes towards Native Americans, the author commits quite a few of these himself, it must be admitted, but offers a generous view for its era.Twain probably does more damage to Cooper's legacy than any other American author with his quick-witted and poignant critique of Cooper's style. His typically viperous tongue slashes to the bone while at the same time coaxing a smile from the reader. I am a huge Twain fan but to compare these two authors is folly. I would imagine Cooper never expected to be a gritty American author like Twain but most likely envied those like Emerson or Thoreau. It can be debated whether he successfully accomplished this aim, but to cast this book unfairly into the bonfire as so much kindling is unfair. It is clearly not the best example of American writing of the era, but clearly it isn't the worst either. It's a modestly enjoyable book with moral lessons for the era, which I believe makes it a limited success.