Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Breaking News
Home » Allen M. Jones

Allen M. Jones

Big Horn Sheep Killing: A Betrayal of Trust

I like to hunt, and I like to fish, and I like to do them in good conscience. This means, first and foremost, that I do my best to obey the rule of law, toe the line in the interests of, among other things, preserving the resource. As a hunter and fisherman, I want people to think well of me. I bristle at stereotypes, I wince at photos of 300 pound rednecks on ATVs proudly holding up forkhorns they shot under a jacklight. Aware of the public relations disaster that is too often the image of hunters viz the city folk, I dig it when the bad guys get their comeuppance. I should be pleased, then, to see a few more ne’er-do-wells taken off the playing field in Montana. Charges were recently filed in state district court against James Reed (Rexberg, Idaho), Blake Trangmoe (Glendive) and John Lewton (Whitehall). Lewton received the majority of the charges, including felony unlawful sale of a game animal, felony unlawful possession of a game animal, two misdemeanor counts of hunting without landowner permission, and a misdemeanor count of outfitting without a license. Indeed, I should be pleased to see these guys caught. But...

Read More »

Anti-Tea Party Mob Storms Bozeman

For my money, there are few sins so egregious as the taking of yourself too seriously. I mean, really, what’s the point? We’re all going to eventually kick the bucket with an equal amount of kicking and screaming. Might as well enjoy ourselves while we’re here. So I knew I’d met a kindred soul when I ran into Brian Leland yesterday morning in downtown Bozeman. A local master electrician, he’s also the founder and organizer of “The Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus,” a tongue-in-cheek, don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously counterpart to a Tea Party demonstration being held in Bozeman the morning of July 4.

Read More »

A Few Thoughts on the West of Reif Larsen’s ‘T. S. Spivet’

Reif Larsen’s novel, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, has been rumbling around in the intestines of the publishing industry for the last year or so. An auction, rumors of a near-million-dollar advance, interviews describing a strikingly original narrative that begins in Montana and ends in D.C., maps and sketches by the author…here, perhaps, I thought, might be a book that’s actually worthy of its press releases. A great American novel that happily begins in my own backyard. Alas, and to misquote Thomas Huxley, “Another beautiful premise ruined by a few ugly facts.” Turns out, the novel’s narrator, T.S. Spivet, is a twelve-year-old genius, a kid compelled to map, complete with marginalia and commentary, the minutiae of his life. From the shape of a corn cob caught mid-crunch to the conversational dynamics around a dinner table, water table maps to the forensics of the gunshot wound that killed his brother, the kid can’t stop drawing. Over 220 sketches with accompanying marginalia are presented as an organic part of the novel itself. If you were pitching the screenplay you’d say it’s Holden Caulfield meets Shane meets Good Will Hunting, and all with a sketch pad.

Read More »

Five Questions for William Kittredge

William Kittredge is the author of The Nature of Generosity, and with Annick Smith he edited The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology. He grew up in Oregon and now lives in Missoula, where for many years he taught at the University of Montana. Upon the occasion of his newest book, The Willow Field, he was kind enough to respond to a few questions from NewWest.

Read More »

The Willow Field, by William Kittredge

William Kittredge is a figure unique in western letters. A career built on a selection of sharp-eyed, gentle-hearted essays, memoirs, and short stories, thirty-some years spent mentoring aspiring writers at the University of Montana (his influence in this regard is incalculable), he is almost without professional peer. But he hasn't written a novel. It's been the conspicuous absence within an enormous portfolio of accomplishments. Thus, and given the esteem with which he's held by the community, it seems only natural to have approached the reading of his new novel with some measure of trepidation. Would the book live up to its own possibilities? Yes, yes, indeed yes. I finished The Willow Field a couple nights ago, turned off the reading lamp and eased back, still smelling a little fresh hay, the saddle leather and horse sweat, and thinking, "Man, it's so good, it's really goddamned good."

Read More »

A New Online Arts Journal, “Drumlummon Views”

Ten years ago, feed me a couple glasses of wine, one of my favorite subjects was the lamentable state of publishing in Montana. For a region with such a wealth of writers and photographers, there were so few local outlets where they could legitimately take their work. After the magazine that was paying me a salary, Big Sky Journal (founded specifically to try and fill this void) there was only the lamentable Montana Magazine with its endless photos of wildflowers and nostril shots of goats, and the intrepid but mostly irrelevant University of Montana student literary journal, Cutbank. Since then, consider the flourishing of Montana's literary arts. A couple new perfect-bound four-color magazines, Montana Quartery and Distinctly Montana (the former an artful interpretation of a region, the latter an advertising vehicle giveaway with some decent photographs), a redesign of Montana Magazine, the admirable counterculture news source Missoula Independent, and of course, our own New West, headquartered in Missoula. And now there's Drumlummon Views, an "online journal of Montana arts and culture" spearheaded by Helena poet and editor Rick Newby.

Read More »

Six Short Essays About Jim Harrison

When he's in Montana, the poet and novelist Jim Harrison does most of his work in a shed behind his refurbished farmhouse. The house itself is tastefully done up in arts and crafts, arrangements of hardwoods and mirrors and original art; his writing space, however, could have come from impoverished Mexico, Argentina, the Balkans. Some mountain village still ten years away from electricity. There's a sleeping cot (quilts piled up in a wad) and a good-sized desk. A corkboard of photos and shelves full of personal totems. Little else. It's the room of a writer leery of all distraction save memory.

Read More »

Thomas McGuane’s Newest Collection, “Gallatin Canyon”

By and large, there are three sorts of writers: The misfortunates who have sacrificed everything for their art (the Lowrys of the world, the Sextons); the mean average (with their bitter stories about publicists); and the fortunate few for whom, when a deck of cards is tossed high, all the aces flop face up (Foer, Franzen). But maybe there's a fourth category as well. I’m thinking now about those famous writers who have nevertheless not done as well as they perhaps deserve. Rilke never won a Nobel, for instance. Up here in Montana, you read Thomas McGuane and you can't help but feel a dose of indignation on the author's behalf. As successful as he is, it still feels like there should be more. Where are the major awards, for instance? His is a career that's been built on essays (An Outside Chance, Some Horses), a few screenplays (Rancho Deluxe, The Missouri Breaks, Tom Horn), and a portfolio of fictions that, taken together (Panama, Nobody's Angel, Nothing but Blue Sky), float him up into the most rarefied kind of literary air. Surely he's due another ace or two. There are so few American writers who can make you laugh even as they're breaking your heart. Maybe it's time. His newest book, a collection of ten short stories called Gallatin Canyon, contains moments nearly as fine as anything he has written, and if there are soft spots, they serve only to emphasize the soundness of the larger whole. Editor's Note: Click here to read Hal Herring's interview with McGuane.

Read More »

America’s 100th Meridian: A Plains Journey, by Monte Hartman and William Kittredge

Comes down to it, coffee table books make for awkward reading material. No matter the subject, the format rarely asks for more than distracted browsing. Square like file cabinets, heavy as car batteries, you can't really curl up in bed with one of these babies. They're meant for display, not study. Exhibits A and B always come from National Geographic and Barnes & Noble. Now and then, though, you find a volume that takes full advantage of all those low printing costs in China. Serious images on glossy paper paired with passages of artful, careful text. My favorite is a brief collection of black and white boxing photos by Kurt Markus, sprinkled through with excerpts from Fat City. Some bad ass sumbitch standing there with his gold tooth and inward sneer, then that famous paragraph, "All I need's a fight and a woman. Then I'm set. I get the fight I'll get the money. I get the money I'll get the woman. There's some women that love you for yourself, but that don't last long." The words accentuate the photos, and vice-versa. The fine new book by photographer Monte Hartman, America's 100th Meridian: A Plains Journey (Texas Tech University Press, $39.95), with an essay by William Kittredge, is of a similar species. A photographer and a writer coming to a shared subject with divergent but complementary sensibilities.

Read More »

The Pleasure and Pain of Owning Books

There should be a word for that particular kind of stress associated with moving. Some -itis or -enia or -obia. Packing up cardboard boxes full of your random shit and displacing it across the state, one rental to another. The last few days, having U-Hauled myself from Livingston to Helena, I've been unpacking my books. Puzzled by the new surroundings, my dog can't stop shadowing me room to room, nosing at my hip as I sit alphabetizing titles. Now and then I'll show him a spine. "Dostoyevsky. That's a pretty good one." If moving is an illness, moving paperbacks must be a kind of cancer. Merck Manual symptomology includes sore lower back and melancholia, bleary-eyes and red wine hangovers. Patient complains of angst and anomie. The doctor behind his clipboard raises a surprised eyebrow. "So you're a reader?" Indeed, and brother, we're a dying breed. Another generation or two, me and thee will have gone the way of the dodo. They'll be putting us in museums. What I'm concerned about now, however (two glasses into a bottle of seven dollar merlot) is, for god's sake, why? Why do I have all these goddamned books? Why does anybody? They're expensive, they weigh you down, they're cumbersome. Writing them, reading them, treasuring them. This day and age, it feels antiquated. Quaint. Especially now, with all the information in the world a click and a digital beep-boop-bop away, why all these ponderous rows of bound paper? What's the illness, and what's the cure?

Read More »