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Wood Works

The Life and Writings of Charles Erskine Scott Wood

Edwin Bingham and Tim Barnes

Northwest Readers

6 × 9 inches. Illustrated with historic photographs. Index. 352 pages.

1997. ISBN 978-0-87071-397-2. Hardcover, $29.95.

Charles Erskine Scott Wood (1852-1944) led an extraordinary life--long, varied, and controversial. Soldier, poet, attorney, satirist, anarchist, reformer, bon vivant, painter, and pacifist--C. E. S. Wood was all of these. A celebrated figure in the early part of this century, his fame faded after his death in 1944. In recent years, however, there has been renewed interest in Wood. This long-awaited first anthology of his writings gives readers a vital sense of this colorful and complex character and reintroduces a major figure in Western literature and history.

Into nearly 92 years of living, Wood packed three distinct careers-army, law, and writing. Wood Works traces this long and eventful life by bringing together into a single volume Wood's best writings and an extensive biographical introduction.

As a young infantry officer, Wood fought in Indian campaigns and first saw the southeastern Oregon desert--a "lean and stricken land," that was to have a deep influence on him. As a prominent Portland, Oregon, attorney, he helped shape that city's culture, while supporting radical causes. Wood spent the last twenty-five years of his life with his second wife, poet Sara Bard Field, in the Los Gatos, California, retreat that they called The Cats. Here Wood wrote satire and poetry that brought him national recognition.

Wood was a fascinating and polished personality, as at ease in a banker's drawing room as he was at a gathering of Wobblies. He drew friends from contrasting corners of society, including such well-known figures as Chief Joseph, Mark Twain, Emma Goldman, Ansel Adams, Robinson Jeffers, Clarence Darrow, Childe Hassam, Margaret Sanger, and John Steinbeck.

Wood Works is divided into four sections that represent the different stages of Wood's writing career. The first treats his frontier experiences and includes Wood's famous rendering of Chief Joseph's eloquent sentiments at the time of his surrender. The second stage revolves around his frequent contributions to Pacific Monthly, the Pacific Northwest's leading literary magazine. Wood's third stage marks his most prolific and powerful period as a writer. This section includes excerpts from his acclaimed book-length poem, The Poet in the Desert. His fourth stage was spent in California with Sara and was devoted to writing and reform. This final section includes several satirical, often hilarious, dialogues from Wood's best-known book, Heavenly Discourse.

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