From the Reviews
In Trickster in the Land of Dreams,” Zeese Papanikolas. . . peels back the layers of mythology – from American Indian creation fables to propaganda for the MX missile program – that have settled on the harsh desert landscape of the American West.
This might have been a tedious exercise, but Papanikolas approaches it as a tale-spinner, retelling both American Indian lore and modern history and anecdote with easy familiarity. . . by putting the reader into a dreaming frame of mind it brings home Papanikolas’s point better than any argument could, that America has long taken its own spaciousness for proof that self-invention and individual moral authority are potentially unlimited. We feel the force of that delusion in spite of ourself. . . The better part of the book is a memorable performance, a kind of delirious anthropology. that will not be easily imitated.
Kenneth Baker, The San Francisco Chronicle
This book is exceptional, an important “crossover” book for western studies. It has a fictionalist’s feel for pace and poetry, a high intellectual’s fluency with theory, a trade unionist’s political sensibilities, and a tricktster’s cunning about disciplinary convention. It is one of the first fine cultural studies texts in western history.
Krista Comer, Westerm Historical Quarterly
Near the end of his haunting and vital book, Zeese Papanikolas describes what he imagines to be Jean Baudrillard’s drive into the American desert. In America (1986), the Philosopher sees through the windows of his Chrysler one big, metaphysical souvenir – America seen as desert, as panning shot in a movie, as hyperreality, as simulacrum. “Transparent as glass, what can one make of it? It becomes another text.” . . . As Trickster in the Land of Dreams argues, we do not serve the survival of consciousness within the world by sticking to the desert highways of abstraction, through the disciplined cloistering of professional knowledge. In the folklore of history, rather than the science, we find “meaning that flows backward and forward at once.” Only by engaging with the spiritual yearnings and vernacular terms in which ordinary people perform knowledge in the world can we come to read their experience in a way that is meaningful for our own lives and actions.
Thomas Augst, Boston Book Review