Friday, March 6, 2015
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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 »

How To Survive the Flooding

From record snowfall last winter to relentless rains this spring, state agencies and weather forecasters have been warning us for months that when melt-off begins in earnest, we’ll be looking at ten pounds of river in a five pound bag. But how can anyone be surprised that their driveway is now a boat ramp? All you needed to do was consult the mother of all weather forecasting tools, the Holy Bible. Read More »

‘In This Light’ Collects Utah Writer Melanie Rae Thon’s Greatest Hits

The accomplished writer Melanie Rae Thon grew up in Montana and teaches at the University of Utah. In This Light: New & Selected Stories (Graywolf Press, 256 pages, $15) collects some of the highlights of her career, and there have been many—her stories have regularly appeared in the Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Stories, and Pushcart Prize anthologies. Thon frequently sets her stories in the West, but they follow none of the typical paths Western writers are often expected to take. Thon focuses on people who exist on the fringes of society, who are damaged, dispossessed, addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, or all three, people who never have the chance to stop and admire the landscape—like the homeless kids of Kalispell in her story "Heavenly Creatures"—they're too busy scrapping for survival. Thon relentlessly turns her attention on people that society ignores, and describes them with intense language in stories that are replete with ghosts. Read More »

Osama bin Laden’s Final Day

Bin Laden is in a bad mood, and his day is starting out poorly. The cacophony of the children playing on the third floor has reached a deafening pitch, and he throws his hands up in the air. “Enough! You little beasts go play in the basement! I can’t even hear myself terrorize!” He mutters to himself: “Oh, if I could go back in time I would trade one thousand goats for a single package of condoms.” Read More »

Book Festivals of the West 2011

Each year readers and writers gather to celebrate the written word at book festivals, fairs, and writing conferences throughout the West. Although there are a few spring festivals, everything really begins to pick up in June, and the schedule remains busy through November. The offerings vary from those that concentrate on helping writers improve their craft, such as the Lighthouse Writers Workshop's retreat in Grand Lake, Colo. (July 10th-15th), to those that introduce writers to readers through panels, readings, and book signings, such as the Montana Festival of the Book in Missoula (October 5th-7th). Some, such as the Aspen Summer Words Festival (June 19th-24th), combine workshops and readings. The workshops charge fees, but plenty of the festivals are free to attend, including the Montana Festival of the Book in Missoula and the Equality State Book Fair in Casper. Most workshops are already accepting applications for this year. I've updated the Book Festivals of the West map with this year's information when it was available. Please let me know if there are any more events to add or update—I'll even throw this open for events in California and Texas. New West will run reports from the festivals again this year—we already have correspondents lined up for the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, Aspen Summer Words, and the Montana Festival of the Book, and are looking for more contributors. Read More »

NASCAR Doesn’t Belong on the Sports Page

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be into NASCAR, nor am I trying to cast aspersions on fans of racing. It’s just not my cup of Mountain Dew. Still, I have to wonder how the hell hundreds of thousands of fans will spend wheelbarrow-loads of money to see these races every weekend, and then bitch about paying $4.00 for a gallon of gas to run their Chevy Avalanche or F250. Read More »

Two Montana Residents File Suit Against Greg Mortenson, While Others Defend Him

The rather dispiriting saga of Montana writer and philanthropist Greg Mortenson continues this week, with two Montana residents, Jena Price of Great Falls, and Missoula Rep. Michele Reinhart, filing suit against the author of Three Cups of Tea in the wake of allegations on the news program "60 Minutes" that he fictionalized some aspects of the book and misused funds intended for his charity, the Central Asia Institute. According to the AP, the suit "claims Mortenson and CAI [his nonprofit, Central Asia Institute] committed fraud by inducing them to donate and buy his book." The Missoula Independent reports Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock is investigating Mortenson and CAI. Kim Murphy of The Los Angeles Times interviewed Bozeman residents about the controversy ("With philanthropist under attack, hometown comes to his defense"), and found most people still support Mortenson, including the owner of the Country Bookshelf. Also in the Roundup: Regional book prize news. Read More »