Sunday, November 6, 2016

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher --by Timothy Egan

Nonfiction / Biography
384 pages
5 Stars

I don't know when I was introduced to the photography of Edward S. Curtis, but I don't remember a time before then. I have a large book of his photos, and a small black and white portfolio I bought at the Curtis Gallery in Seattle many years ago.

A couple of weeks ago, friend loaned me his copy of this book, and I could hardly put it down. It became my 'bedtime' book, until I couldn't stand parsing the chapters out any more, then I sat and read it to the end.

I lived in Seattle for many years, and as mentioned above, visited the gallery, but it never clicked that Curtis got his start there, that Seattle was his home.

Egan's research and writing are impeccable. The book is lacking a bit, the print is more gray than black, and the photos at the end of the chapters is on the same paper. I can understand why they wouldn't want to put glossies in, but still, it IS a book about a photographer. Those are comments for the publisher, not the author.

I'm a history buff and love stories about the Indians, and I loved the part about the Battle of the Little Big Horn. What a shame no one has reprinted the series of books Curtis devoted his life to, and done so in a manner average people could afford – or at least find in their libraries.

I found this book to be a page burner. Oh, it's not filled with action, but filled with information presented in a manner that made me want to read more and more. I am somewhat sorry the end had to come. Having been to several of the places Curtis was, I could close my eyes and smell the wood smoke, the aroma of fry bread, of salmon. I had no problem entering into the book and the story.

Epilogues are oft times sad, but this one had heart. And a bit of hope. Curtis knew his work was valuable, he just never realized how valuable.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who loves his photographs, to anyone who has an interest in Native Americans, to anyone who enjoys a good biography.

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