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National Outdoor Book Awards name best reads

OUTDOOR LITERATURE — A clash between politics and nature is front and center among the winners of the 2013 National Outdoor Book Awards.

Krista Schlyer in her winning book “Continental Divide” reports on the controversial border wall between the United States and Mexico and its effect on the natural environment.

“This is a groundbreaking work,” said Ron Watters, the Chair of the National Outdoor Book Awards. “The effects of the border wall on the environment have been left out of the national discourse, but Krista Schlyer casts a bright light on this forgotten part of the debate.”

Schlyer's book won the Nature and Environment category, one of 10 categories which make up the National Outdoor Book Awards sponsored by the National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Idaho State University and the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.

When Congress authorized the border wall, it allowed the Department of Homeland Security to waive all environmental laws, and as a result, according to Schlyer, the wall has devastated wildlife migration paths. It has also rerouted human traffic through the most pristine and sensitive of wild lands.

“This book is an important work on nature, and it's timely,” said Watters. “It is the judges' hope that the book plays a role in jump-starting a more fully informed debate on the wall.”

Read on for more details and a list of all the winners, including the award for children's books.

Rick Bass to give Get Lit! a wilderness connection

OUTDOOR LITERATURE — Author Rick Bass of Montana's Yaak Valley, who captured a national audience by writing on man’s relationship with nature, will blend his perspective with an edgy Montana band in a special Get Lit! reading performance April 14, 7 p.m., in the Blue Room of the Spokane Masonic Center, 1108 W. Riverside Ave. Cost: $15

His readings will be accompanied by the unique live performance sound of Stellarondo.
 
A pass for the annual literary festival organized by Eastern Washington University is $45 for the week-long event that's phasing into high gear next week. Tickets are available from TicketsWest.
 
Read on for more about Rick Bass and the upcoming performance.

Orlean, Whitehead, Lowry booked for Get Lit!

Some big literary names have been booked into Eastern Washington University's Get Lit! Festival April 11-15:

  • Susan Orlean, author of “The Orchid Thief” and the just-released “Rin Tin Tin: Life and Legend,” the biography of the famous movie dog. The latter is poised to be one of the bestselling books of the season.
  • Colson Whitehead, author of “Sag Harbor,” “The Intuitionist” and the new “Zone One,” an ironic take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel. 
  • Ted Kooser, former U.S. Poet Laureate.
  • Rick Bass, author of “The Wild Marsh” and many other meditative books about the West and its natural history.
  • Lois Lowry, the Newberry Award-winning young adult author.
  • Steve Almond, author of “Candyfreak” and “God Bless America: Stories.”
  • Jess Walter, Spokane novelist and National Book Award finalist.

This impressive lineup makes the Festival Pass look like an excellent option at $45. You can get them via Ticketswest outlets beginning Nov. 4. Individual tickets won't go on sale until Jan. 2.  

Sarah Vowell coming to SCC

Sarah Vowell, the well-known author and radio voice, will speak at Spokane Community College's Presidential Speaker Series, Nov. 7, 7 p.m.

Vowell is the author of the bestselling books, “The Wordy Shipmates,”  “Assassination Vacation,' and “Unfamiliar Fishes.” She was also a regular contributor to public radio's “This American Life.”

Vowell talk will be in SCC's Lair-Student Center Auditorium, Bldg. 6, 1810 N. Greene St.

Vowell will also do a casual Q-and-A on Nov. 8, 9:30 a.m., in the Hagan Foundation Center for the Humanities at SCC.

Both events are free and open to the public

Well-behaved Women Didn’t Make New Mexico’s History

(Photo courtesy Georgia O'Keefe Museum)

 


Coronado led the expedition to what would eventually become the state of New Mexico seeking a king’s ransom in gold. But what he found instead was a wide, burning landscape of stark contradictions and unique natural beauty; a land of painted desert, rolling hills, jagged mountains and endless blue skies ornamented with picture-perfect cloud formations.


The Pueblo people, unaware they were reputed to be wealthy beyond imagination, lived in houses made of mud bricks baked in the hot sun. Flakes of Mica and bits of straw embedded in the surface glinted in the hot sunlight.

In time, important trade routes were established and in the centuries that followed the cultures, beliefs and traditions of the native people, the conquering Spanish and Anglos who followed rutted paths and broken roads, blended.


 The result is a place like no other.


I was just in New Mexico, spending most of my time along the road between Santa Fe and Taos. And I discovered, wrapped in all the history of the region, the natural beauty and the contemporary focus on wine, food and art, the unexpected legacy of more than a few determined women. New Mexico may have been shaped by the men who laid claim to it, but it was made even richer by a flood of stubborn, demanding and eccentric women who took one look at the mountains in the distance, the pinyon trees and the wide open spaces, and never left.


The list is curious and impressive: Movie star Greer Garson—the implacable Mrs. Miniver— married into a ranch outside Santa Fe in the late 1940s and by the time of her death, in her 90s, she’d funded and endowed what would become Pecos National Park.  


New York socialite Millicent Rogers swept into Taos in 1949 and, consumed by a passion to conserve - while immersing herself in it - the culture of the Southwestern Indian, amassed an enormous collection of native turquoise and silver jewelry, pottery, textiles and paintings that would eventually, after her death in 1953, become the Millicent Rogers Museum of Taos.


Earlier, Mabel Dodge Luhan purchased land and a rambling adobe house and set out of to create a desert salon, a writers colony. Her tempestuous personal life became the stuff of literary legend, but her house still stands as a retreat center and bed and breakfast.


Georgia O’Keefe’s life and art changed forever when she planted herself—already in midlife—in the dry soil. Her home sits high on a hill in the Village of Abiquiui and looks out on a wide view she captured on canvas again and again.


Willa Cather, Frieda Lawrence, Edna St. Vincent Millay were all drawn to New Mexico, and so many other women—some rich, some rich only in talent and vision—came and stayed to sculpt a new life in a wild place. They played by new rules or their own rules. and they all possessed a restless energy that matched the place they’d settled.

In the dazzling New Mexico light, fed by the raw elements of sun, sky, earth and water, women blossomed like the cacti and golden Chamisa that blooms across the desert.   They proved that sometimes - to paraphrase Virginia Woolfe - all a woman needs is money and a territory of her own.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review and is the editor of Spokane Metro Magazine. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Classic angling books featured in $1.8 million gift to WSU

FISHING HISTORY – English scholars have a new run of information to explore in the Palouse, thanks to a Spokane couple. Washington State University has netted an historic collection of classic angling literature valued at $1.8 million.

The unusually fine collection includes treasures such as a complete set of 19 first editions of Henry Abbot’s privately printed birch books, Oswald Crawfurd’s personal, annotated copy of “The Compleatest Angling Booke,” and a first edition (1653) of Izaak Walton’s “The Compleat Angler.”

“The Compleat Angler” is, along with the Bible, “one of the most popular books ever published in English,” said Trevor James Bond, head of the WSU Libraries’ department of Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections.

Joan and Vernon Gallup of Spokane donated the fine catch of more than 15,000 rare books related to angling, natural history and outdoor sports. Get a glimpse of the Gallups and the donated volumes in this short video.

Assembled over decades from American and British dealers, the collection is three times the size of well known angling collections at Princeton University and the University of New Hampshire, WSU officials say.

Standout volumes include 'The Fresh Water Fishes of Great Britain,' by Sarah Bowdich, who ground scales from fish and mixed them in her paints to vividly illustrate her book.

It’s the largest single gift of rare books in the MASC’s 120-year history, putting WSU at the forefront of such collections nationally and internationally, Bond said.

Read on for more details about the collection and a reception honoring the Gallups.

A new Josh Ritter hit — a novel

Josh Ritter is a first-time novelist with a well-known name.

Ritter is the singer-songwriter, originally from Moscow, Idaho, who has a great national following for his well-crafted, literate songs.

So now Ritter the wordsmith has turned his hand to a new craft with his debut novel, “Bright’s Passage” (Dial Press, $22). It’s the story of a young man returning home after World War I. The story includes an angels and a talking horse. Actually, horse and angel are one and the same.

The novel was just released on Tuesday and is already getting praise from some well-known literary names. Dennis Lehane calls it “heartbreaking and luminous.”

Critic Carolyn Kellogg of the L.A. Times calls it “intensensly beautiful, tragic and also funny.”

She writes that Ritter said the idea first started out as a song, but it “wanted to be more.”

“He knows how to build a rich, beautiful story with shape,” writes Kellogg.

Here's a link to the LA Times review.

And here's a link to a short interview he did for the Washington Post. Looks like our region might have a new homegrown literary star.

My summer reading project: “Les Miz,” unabridged

Just got back from Auntie's Bookstore where I purchased my summer reading project: The unabridged “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo.

Since the musical adaptation is my favorite musical of all time, I figured it's about time for me to immerse myself in the genuine source material.

Fun facts: The paperback I bought is 1,463 pages long. The electronic version on my iPhone is over 6,727 “pages”.

Here's hoping I can make it to “page” 6,727.

The real Bloomsday: Literary Pub Crawl

Thursday is the real  Bloomsday (of the James Joyce variety), which means it's also the day of Spokane's  annual Limerick Literary Pub Crawl and Traditional Irish Dinner.

For $50, you can accompany a bagpiper, a bard or two and a band of like-minded revelers through downtown Spokane's Irish and/or literary minded pubs, including Cyrus O'Learys, ODoherty's, the Blue Spark, the Satellite and the Onion.

You'll have discounted libations at every stop, along with music and literary readings. At The Onion, you'll also have a full Irish dinner — salmon crusted with oatmeal, etc.

Registration should have been made in advance, but maybe if you're lucky there will still be a few spots left. Call Kerry Lynch at (509) 990-7513 for info. This is sponsored by the Spokane-Limerick Sister City Society,

Two important new Hanford books

Here are two new books about a crucial and controversial issue in our region:

  •  “Atomic Frontier Days: Hanford and the American West” (University of Washington Press, $24.95), by John M. Findlay and Bruce Hevly. The authors tell the complex and fascinating story of Hanford’s atomic legacy. It was a vast area of sagebrush which was converted overnight during World War II to a super-secret federal bomb-building facility. Our region is still dealing with many Hanford-related issues today – environmental, political and socialOne reviewer has already called it “a must-read for anyone interested and concerned about this nation’s nuclear legacy.” Both authors are history professors at the University of Washington. Findlay specializes in the Northwest and the American West, and Hevly specializes in the history of science and technology. They “offer perspective on today’s controversies,” according to the publisher. It was just released this month and you can find it at local bookstores, online or here. .
  • “Made in Hanford: The Bomb That Changed the World” (Washington State University Press, $22.95) by Hill Williams. Williams, a former science writer for the Seattle Times, is particularly well-suited to this subject. His father was editor of the Pasco Herald during World War II – and one of the few people in on part of the secret. Williams went on to write about Hanford and other nuclear issues for the Seattle Times. He also had access to the personal diaries of one of Hanford’s key figures. The book combines his personal story with detailed scientific and historic research. You should be able to find it at local bookstores and online or at wsupress.wsu.edu.

Why Hal Holbrook deserves a Kennedy Center Honor

I just finished writing a story about Hal Holbrook — it will appear in the paper March 10 in advance of his March 12 appearance here in “Mark Twain Tonight!” — when I realized something surprising. Holbrook has never received a Kennedy Center Honor or a National Arts Medal.

Few actors have, of course; these are very selective honors. Yet it seems to me that Holbrook has a particularly strong claim for consideration:

  • His Emmy-winning portrayal of Abe Lincoln in the 1974 TV series based on Carl Sandburg's biographies (one of three Emmy awards).
  • His portrayal of Deep Throat in “All the President's Men.”
  • His portrayal as the Stage Manager in the 1977 version of “Our Town”
  • His many other film roles, including his Oscar nominated performance at age 82 in Sean Penn's “Into the Wild.”
  • And finally, for his stage show, “Mark Twain Tonight!” which has brought the words of Mark Twain alive for more than 50 years.

I say he belongs in the same company as other Kennedy Center recipients, such as Jack Lemmon, Charlton Heston and Robert Redford, and other National Arts Medal winners, such as Robert Duvall and Angela Lansbury.

Let's mount a Hal Holbrook appreciation campaign. Is anyone with me on this?

Salinger passes away…

Good morning, Netizens…


J.D. Salinger, one of my personal favorite authors has died. His most-notable book, “Catcher in the Rye”, was banned by the schools when I attended high school. However, I had already shifted my literary tastes to where I no longer was dependent upon their censored library for literature, and was covertly purchasing books I wanted to read, all of which were stored in the bottom of my high school locker. Upon graduation, I boxed all these banned books up and hid them at my grandparents’ house where they stayed for most of two decades in the attic.


George Orwell (various books), Aldous Huxley (Brave New World), Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five), Vladamir Nabokov (Lolita), John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye were just a few of the authors and titles the school board had determined I should not read. Nearly all the books, in later years, became required reading; nearly all were popular best-sellers. So much for censorship.


Of course, I immediately identified with the book’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield, and once I had read the book, I began searching for other works by the same author, without a great deal of success.


To say that Salinger was a recluse, which is what a lot of the news sources have been saying since he passed away two days ago, is hardly news. Based upon his experience, he did not like literary success, and assiduously avoided publicity and/or fanfare. I hardly can disagree with his position.


Rumors have persisted that a safe at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire contains several other books which Salinger had written during his life, but never published, perhaps out of aversion to the hue and cry. One might presume that, in his death, the contents of that safe, if they exist, will be revealed to the world, and his heirs will make a bundle. One can hope.


Did you ever read Catcher in the Rye?


Dave

Idaho author wins PEN award

Kim Barnes, author and University of Idaho professor of creative writing, has been awarded the PEN USA award for fiction for her second novel, “A Country Called Home.” That’s a prestigious award, putting her in the company of such other winners this year as creative nonfiction winner Steve Lopez, who won for “The Soloist,” now a hit movie; and Dustin Lance Black, whose screenplay for “Milk” won the screenplay category.

But that’s not the most interesting thing about Barnes’ award; this is: It’s for a book that she wrote while teaching her U of I students about writing, “with my students creating their own stories and essays right along beside me,” Barnes said. “As I submitted ‘A Country Called Home’ for publication, I shared with my fiction students the process of writing, revising and submitting a novel. I showed them every agent comment, good and bad, and each editorial rejection and, luckily, acceptance. Finally, we’re all in this together.”

Barnes was a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for her memoir “In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country,” and won the 2001 Pushcart Prize for her essay, “The Ashes of August.” Her first novel, published in 2003, was “Finding Caruso.” She’s now at work on her third.