The City of Trembling Leaves
IN THIS story Timothy Hazard grows to manhood and then to maturity in the high, dry reaches of the Great Basin, mostly in the city of Reno, with its shadowing mountains and its streets so carefully tree-lined. It is these trees, particularly the poplars and cottonwoods, their slenderstemmed leaves trembling in the winds of the Truckee, that give the story its title and its theme. In Timmy’s frequent agitation over his family or some girl, he ventures into track, tennis, music, and prolific composing. Finally he goes to the lowlands of California. But he returns, completing the circle and his finest composition, his symphony of the leaves.
There are many sensitive, moving scenes in the book, particularly with Rachel, and fine flashes of outdoor life, like the bit about the geese lighting on the frozen lake and thawing holes with their breasts before they could fly. Then there is the exuberant, satirical tale of a town that made the most of its tree-planting woman and some ordinary hangings through an organization called Hanging Tree, Inc., which set up a fancy museum, including publicity and souvenirs. Its very location, a Montana town in the Great Basin, is part of the fable.
There are many good incidental portraits of men, swiftly and skillfully done, revealing Mr. Clark’s deepening insight into life in the more remote West. This is a fine novel, a little overlong and wordy in spots, but so was young Timmy when self-conscious, and he was forgiven.