William Eastlake Biography
(1917–1997), A Child's Garden of Verses for the Revolution
American novelist, born in New York. He spent four years in the army, attended the Alliance Française in Paris, and later settled on a 300-acre cattle ranch in Cuba, New Mexico. There are three strands to his writing, the least important being his political work in A Child's Garden of Verses for the Revolution (1970) and The Long Naked Descent into Boston (1977). The second strand is his remarkable writing on the American West contained in Go in Beauty (1956), The Bronc People (1958), Portrait of an Artist with Twenty-Six Horses (1963), and Dancers in the Scalp House (1975). These books move from a concentration on the white experience of the West through to an accumulating sympathy for the plight of the Native American, registered most effectively in Dancers, whose linguistic experiments contort the American language in order to convey more accurately the scope and humanity of Indian thought. Dancers also presents with great anger and urgency an ecological viewpoint which Eastlake associates most closely with the patternings of Indian life. The third strand of his fiction deals with the reality of war; Castle Keep (1965) is a dense, formally innovative study of the Second World War, and The Bamboo Bed (1969) carries the same set of procedures into the war in Vietnam (see Vietnam Writing). His understandings of the power complex and his subtle investigations of memory help to turn these quasi-philosophical novels into important studies of the phenomenon of modern warfare.