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September 8, 2013

SO FAR SO GOOD by Ralph J Salisbury

SO FAR SO GOOD                                  4 STARS
by Ralph J. Salisbury
writer and professor
So Far, So Good
Published April 1st 2013 by University of Nebraska Press 


Recipient of the  Rockefeller Bellagio Award in fiction  

Northwest Poetry Award

(from Goodreads)

Bullet-shattered glass clatters onto his baby bed; he wakes and cries out into darkness. Does he remember this? Or remember being told? Regardless, he feels it, and will feel it again, bomb bay wind buffeting his eighteen-year-old body a mile above an old volcano’s jagged debris, and yet again, staring at photos of Korean orphans, huddled homeless in a blizzard after a bombing in which, at twenty-five, he’d refused an order to join. It is through such prisms of the past that Ralph Salisbury’s life unfolds, a life that, eighty years in the making, is also the life of the twentieth century. Winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize, So Far, So Good is a sometimes strange, sometimes lyrical, and often humorous attempt by an inveterate storyteller to recount “just things as they were.”

The survivor of a lightning strike, car and plane mishaps, explosions, bullets, a heart attack, cancer, and other human afflictions, Salisbury wonders: “Why should anyone read this?” The book itself resoundingly answers this question not merely with its sheer eventfulness but also in the prodigious telling. Salisbury takes us from abject poverty in rural Iowa during the Great Depression, with a half Cherokee father and an Irish American mother, through war and peace and protest to the freedom and solace of university life; and it is in the end (so far) so good.


This is a memoir of Ralph Salisbury. The author was born in 1924 to  a half Cherokee-Shawnee father and a tough Irish-American mother in rural Iowa.  She was tough but still a lady. This book is a glimpse of American history from Mr. Salisbury's eyes. The reader has a chronological view that  includes farm life during the Great Depression,  His World War II military involvement, and racial   and political  differences. At first I found the book a little hard to follow. Mr. Salisbury is a great storyteller. He connects his past to his midlife then to his 80-year old present day. He connects his life experiences that are full of history. Sometimes his narrative relays some disturbing images.  He describes in detail his part in castration of farm animals., then he goes to the rumors of World War II castration of prisoners. and other castrations.   He was a survivor of a lightening strike, explosions, bullets, car and plane mishaps, cancer and other health issues. Salisbury wonders: "Why should anyone read this?"  That question is answered not only with its events but in the remarkable story telling of Mr. Salisbury. He takes us from life in rural Iowa, a life of poverty during the Great Depression,  then through war and peace.  Then the quieter life of a University,.


  Don't miss out on the life of Mr. Ralph J. Salisbury, a poet and professor at University of Oregon. The memoir will take you on a journey into American history..

I would give this book 4 STARS.

I was given a complimentary  ARC  copy of SO FAR SO GOOD by author, Ralph J. Salisbury from Night Owl Reviews for this unbiased review.


Ralph Salisbury, Professor Emeritus of the University of Oregon, is the author of 11 books of poetry, 3 books of short fiction, and a just-published, prize-winning memoir. His poetry titles include Like the Sun in Storm; Light From a Bullet Hole: Poems New and Selected; Blind Pumper at the Well; War in the Genes; Rainbows of Stone; A White Rainbow; Going to the Water: Poems of a Cherokee Heritage; Spirit Beast Chant; Pointing at the Rainbow; Ghost Grapefruit and Other Poems; and Poesie Da Un Retaggio Cherokee (Multimedia Edizioni, Salerno, Italy). His short fiction titles include The Indian Who Bombed Berlin; The Last Rattlesnake Throw; and One Indian and Two Chiefs. His memoir, titled So Far, So Good, focuses on growing up on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression; on his Cherokee-Shawnee-English-Irish-American heritage; and on the power of constant warfare to shape all of our lives.

The father of three grown children, and the grandfather of four, he lives in Eugene, Oregon, with his wife, poet and writer Ingrid Wendt.

Dedicated, as he says, to the Tribe of the World, Ralph Salisbury comments: “Though I have lived and worked among the intelligentsia of many nations, my writing comes from having lived as a questing, mixed-race, working-class individual in a violent world, and my work is offered to the spirit of human goodness, which unites all people in the eternal struggle against evil, a struggle to prevail against global extinction.”

Mr. Salisbury's Books:

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