WHO OWNS THE WEST? by William Kittredge


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 A graceful meditation, sometimes elegiac in tone, on the last days of the Old Mountain West and its replacement with a new myth. ``The interior West is no longer a faraway land,'' writes Kittredge (Hole in the Sky, 1992, etc.). ``Our great emptiness is filling with people, and we are experiencing a time of profound transition, which can be thought of as a second colonization.'' In that new colonization, fueled by well-heeled transients who have seen Legends of the Fall and A River Runs Through It one time too many, newcomers arrive in places like Choteau, Mont., and Moab, Utah, with money to burn, displacing the locals. ``People want to enclose our lives in theirs, as decor,'' Kittredge observes, and you can feel the resentment hanging in the clear blue western air. All the while, he says pointedly, the Native Americans smile and say, ``Now it's happening to you.'' The resentments, says Kittredge, are yielding events like the Ruby Ridge shootout and the Oklahoma City bombings. To stem them, he imagines a different kind of western myth: not of the place of Shane-like loners and a self-styled aristocracy that sees the land as a place to conquer- -men, Kittredge writes, like his own father, who carved out a farm from a pocket of southeast Oregon bottomland. In their stead, he argues, must come westerners who love the land ``because the story of your life has become part of the story of that place.'' Kittredge populates his pages with fellow dreamers, mostly writers like Raymond Carver and Richard Hugo, and even the airiest of his reveries touch ground in precise, epigrammatic observations: ``We are, most of us, ethnologists in our own house,'' he writes, ``working to locate ourselves amid the clutter.'' Longtime westerners--this book's real audience--will find many points to argue with in Kittredge's striking pages.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-56279-078-1
Page count: 192pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1995


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