THE BIG SKY READER by Jeff & Allen Jones Wetmore


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A mixed-bag collection of essays and short fiction from the great state of Montana. Based in Livingston, Big Sky Journal has since 1992 published some of Montana's leading writers, putting many--e.g., Rick Bass, William Kittredge, Annick Smith--on the masthead as contributing editors and bureau chiefs. Publisher Wetmore and editor Jones gather some of their favorite pieces in this collection, the criteria for inclusion in which are disarmingly simple: as the editors write, the selections ""make us feel happy and smart and put us in touch with a place that interests us."" Some of the pieces will perhaps not make readers feel so happy--Ralph Beer's depressing ""Apologies to Ed Abbey,"" for instance, which laments the fact that outsiders are moving into Montana at an alarming rate, filling up the state's storied open spaces; or Tim Cahill and James Crumley's tributes to rough-and-tough bars, essays that have a throwaway, hurried feel and reflect poorly on these talented writers. (Bars and alcohol figure prominently in these pages, as they do in Montana.) Other pieces, however, are worth the price of admission. Among the highlights are Stephen Bodio's memoir of first arriving in Montana in 1971, fueled by devotion to the unlikely pair of Jack Kerouac and Ernest Thompson Seton; Geoff Norman's homage to the trout-rich Henry's Fork River (""If there is a paradise after this life, and I slip through the screening process, I could happily spend eternity wading the water around the Railroad Ranch""); and Doug Peacock's account of fleeing civilization (and the FBI) for a few weeks of freedom in the Rockies, where ""you pay attention and enhance your alertness by shrinking from view, scenting the air and remaining silent."" Although the collection is probably of interest only to regular readers of Big Sky Journal, it's a worthy endeavor.

Pub Date: Dec. 23rd, 1998
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's