The West--in the American, geographical sense of that word as well as in the world-historical one--dominates in the 1985 Book Prizes.
Western in the American sense of the word are Louise Erdrich's "Love Medicine," about Dakota Chippewa families in the mid-20th Century, and Evan S. Connell's "Son of the Morning Star," about Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Some of Janet Lewis' historical fiction is also set in the American West, not least a novel set around the Great Lakes when that part of the continent was the Western frontier.
The winning works are, of course, culturally Western. Three of them, however, are so in a particularly critical, paradoxical way. Biographer Michael Scammell's "Solzhenitsyn," poet X. J. Kennedy's "Cross Ties," and "Habits of the Heart, Individualism and Commitment in American Life" by a team of five social scientists all speak--each in its own way--of the skeptical, acquisitive, romantically self-sufficient individual of the West at the close of his long life and the end of his cultural tether.
The mood throughout: a blend of elegy, energy and embattlement. Much is remembered but only because so much must be defended, not to say reclaimed and reconstructed.