Tuesday, September 2, 2014
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What’s A ‘Honyocker Dream’? David Mogen Explains in New Memoir

Colorado State University English professor David Mogen recounts his peripatetic 1950's Montana childhood with good humor and insight in Honyocker Dreams: Montana Memories (University of Nebraska Press, 231 pages, $21.95). His father worked as a teacher and superintendent for school districts throughout Montana. Every few years, Mogen's parents would move with their six children to a new town for a different job—the towns the family lived in included Missoula, Ennis, Box Elder, Billings, Whitewater, and Froid, where Mogen graduated from high school. (When he went to college at Columbia in New York, one of his new classmates informed him that he pronounced the name of his hometown incorrectly.) Although there were many differences between these places—such as the contrast between lively Missoula, where Mogen's dad completed his studies through the G.I. Bill, and the "time warp" they encountered in Whitewater, population 75, where electricity had only recently been introduced—Mogen sees all of these towns as places where the prior generations enacted their "honyocker dreams." David Mogen will discuss his book at Matter Bookstore in Ft. Collins on August 25 at 7:30 p.m. Read More »

Two Poems from Katie Phillips’ ‘Driving Montana, Alone’

New West closes out National Poetry Month with two poems by Katie Phillips, whose Driving Montana, Alone won the 2010 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition. Phillips grew up in Maryland and Colorado and lived in Montana before moving to a suburb of Chicago. She has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Iowa and feels fortunate that she can walk to work with her dog, Sasha. Her poems have been published in the Cider Press Review, the Raintown Review, the White Pelican Review, and elsewhere. Driving Montana, Alone is illustrated by several of Phillips' photographs of Montana, and the title poem was recently featured on Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac. Moab I can see myself growing lonely at the corner of Uranium and Main. Read More »

An Interview With Charles Wilkinson, Author of Siletz History ‘The People Are Dancing Again’

Charles Wilkinson has written several notable books on a wide range of issues facing the modern West. His latest book, The People Are Dancing Again: The History of the Siletz Tribe of Western Oregon (University of Washington Press, 576 pages, $35) is a fascinating, at times heart-wrenching, historical account of the tribe he worked to help restore in the seventies. The book traces the long history of the Siletz, from the days preceding contact with Euro-American settlers, through war, relocation, and eventual termination as a federally recognized tribe. It continues into the modern era with the tribe's restoration and subsequent revival of traditional heritage, arts, and language. Widely regarded as one of the nation's pre-eminent experts in tribal and natural resources law in the West, Wilkinson is Distinguished Professor and Moses Lasky Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Law School, and is the author of many books, including The Eagle Bird: Mapping a New West and Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations. New West: This book obviously grew from a deep personal regard for the Siletz people, and for their remarkable survival amidst immense adversity. How did this project first come about? Charles Wilkinson: I was an attorney at the Native American Rights Fund here in Boulder in the seventies, and had represented the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin in being restored. Congress had terminated tribes in the fifties, broken the treaties, sold off the land, and ended all federal services, with the idea that they'd just blend into the larger society. The policy was a colossal failure. When the Menominee were the first tribe to be restored, people from Siletz came out and said they wanted to achieve restoration, and I was assigned to the case. Very soon after that, by coincidence I went to teach at the University of Oregon Law School and I was now within two hours of the reservation. That meant that I got to see a lot of the Siletz people. It was the time of the fish wars in the Northwest, when tribes had been awarded fifty percent of the salmon runs, so Indian issues were very sensitive and there was strong opposition from the fishing community to the bill. There were a lot of public meetings, at which the tribal members and I would go to explain that the bill didn't affect fishing rights. There were a lot of late night meetings and I just got to know people really well. Read More »

Craig Lancaster Confronts Domestic Pain in ‘The Summer Son’

Craig Lancaster never met a troubled family he didn’t like—or at least felt he couldn’t mend through dialogue and cathartic scenes of pop psychology in his novels. Conflict between father and son was at the core of his debut, the award-winning 600 Hours of Edward and it’s front and center in his sophomore novel. In The Summer Son, Lancaster has sliced open another vein of domestic pain for a more ambitious book. If he’s not quite as successful here as he was with 600 Hours of Edward—a tightly-wound novel with an unforgettable narrator (the titular Edward who has Asperger’s)—then it’s not for lack of trying. The Summer Son is looser and baggier by comparison, but it also feels more intimate. The Billings author has put his heart into telling the story of an embittered relationship between narrator Mitch Quillen and his 71-year-old father, going deep into territory that feels both singularly personal for Lancaster and universally accessible for readers who will identify with what’s at stake here. Read More »

Whitefish Review Hosts a Ski Fundraiser and Boise’s Anthony Doerr is a Finalist For Big Story Prize

Boise fiction-writing powerhouse Anthony Doerr just won the $20,000 Story Prize for his recent collection Memory Wall, and now he's made the shortlist of six finalists for an award with a very long name: The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award. Why does it have such a long name? Because according to the press release, it's "the world's most valuable short story award" and the winner gets £30,000 so they can call it whatever they want. My handy pound-to-dollar converter tells me that's $47,954--for one story! And you thought writing short stories was a career destined to result in penury. For chumps maybe, but not for A-Dog, which is the name I've just invented for Mr. Doerr. If he wins, he needs to get a necklace with a solid-gold £ symbol hanging from it. We'll find out how Doerr's story "The Deep" fared on April 8 when the winners are announced at the The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival. Also in the Roundup: The Whitefish Review hosts a fundraiser at Turner Mountain, Montana-raised Kim Baker's book about Afghanistan earns rave reviews, and Craig Lancaster's 600 Hours of Edward is this year's One Book Billings selection. Read More »

Signs of Spring: Regional Writers on Book Tours

The beginnings of a spring thaw must have mobilized the region's writers, because most of what I have to report today has to do with regional book tours: • Denver author Cara Lopez Lee will visit Fact & Fiction in Missoula at 7 p.m. tonight to discuss her memoir They Only Eat Their Husbands: A Memoir of Alaskan Love, World Travel, and the Power of Running Away (Ghost Road Press, $19.95). The publisher describes the book in this way: "At twenty-six, after a lover threatens to kill her, Cara runs away to Alaska. In the Last Frontier she lands in a love triangle with two alcoholics: Sean the martial artist and Chance the paraglider pilot. Nine years later, sick of love, she runs again, to backpack around the world alone. They Only Eat Their Husbands is a memoir of her yearlong trek, against a backdrop of reflections on her life and loves in Alaska." Also in the Roundup: Book tours for Tim Sullivan and Ruth McLaughlin, Ted Conover wins the Evil Companions Literary Award, and I'll talk to Chérie Newman on this week's The Write Question on Montana Public Radio. Read More »

Ruth McLaughlin’s “Bound Like Grass” Wins the Montana Book Award

This year's Montana Book Award winner is Ruth McLaughlin's moving memoir, Bound Like Grass: A Memoir from the Western High Plains (University of Oklahoma Press). The prize committee praised it for its "acute observation," honesty, and beautiful writing. The committee also named four honor books published in 2010: Everything by Kevin Canty (Nan A. Talese) Goodbye Wifes and Daughters by Susan Resnick (University of Nebraska Press) The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick (Viking) Visions of the Big Sky: Painting and Photographing the Northern Rocky Mountains by Dan Flores (University of Oklahoma Press) The winners will be honored at the Montana Library Association conference in Billings on April 7. McLaughlin will do a victory lap at several bookstores in Montana: in Bozeman at the Country Bookshelf on March 29, in Hamilton at Chapter One Bookstore on March 30, and in Missoula at Fact and Fiction on March 31. All readings are at 7 p.m. Also in the Roundup: Boise's Alan Heathcock launches Volt, Benjamin Percy reads in Denver, and three Western bookstores are in the running for the Bookstore of the Year Award. Read More »

Literary Gender Imbalance Uncovered by VIDA is Reflected in Western Lit

For some time I've noticed that the majority of the books submitted to me for review are written by men, a ratio I'd estimate at five books by men for every one book by a woman. I noticed this discrepancy particularly among the big six publishers—very few of the books set in the West produced by major publishers are written by women. I am more likely to find books written by women from small and academic presses. I wondered if this male dominance was just a Western thing. As I read and enjoyed books regardless of the gender of their authors, I also noticed a disturbing trend, a formula that Western books by major publishers included again and again: a depiction of horses plus violence against women in books written by men. Usually these authors are compared to Cormac McCarthy, either in the blurbs or the jacket copy. I realize it weakens my argument not to mention these books by name, but I don't want to single out anybody, because I think each writer chose to use these elements for personal, artistic reasons, and I don't blame any of them for it. But I just may have been a wee bit crankier in my reviews of these books. I began to dread reading books with horses on the cover. Sure, on the outside, it's all the pretty horses, but on the inside it's going to be all the beaten, cowering women. Also in the Roundup: Denver Center Theatre Company to adapt Helen Thorpe's Just Like Us, Books Editor Tom Walker leaves the Denver Post, David Abrams writes about the thriving Idaho literary scene, and Casper College hosts its Humanities Fest. Read More »