The Magazine of The University of Montana
By Ginny Merriam
A Bright Soothing Noise
By Peter Brown
University of North Texas Press, 2010, 212 Pages, $14.95
Peter Brown studied with the UM creative writing greats of the early 1980s and graduated with a double major in liberal arts and creative writing. This collection of stories won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. His former Professor William Kittredge calls the work “a compelling if sometimes unsettling book of stories.” Brown can write of the wounded pride and sweetness of despair in the eyes of a farm pig, as well as the terrible consequences for a London man gone wrong with a fifteen-year-old girl.
By Neil McMahon
Harper/HarperCollins Publishers, 2011, 304 pages, $24.99
Neil McMahon is the author of six novels and has plenty of experience giving his readers the creeps. Master of the psychological thriller, McMahon twists his stories tightly, not letting go of the reader until the final page. L.A. Mental starts with a judge going berserk and takes its protagonist into the world of nanotechnology in search of answers to save his brother. The story is set inside the Los Angeles movie-making culture. McMahon earned his M.F.A. in creative writing at UM and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.
An Archaeology of Desperation: Exploring the Donner Party’s Alder Creek Camp
Edited by Kelly J. Dixon, Julie M. Schablitsky, and Shannon A. Novak
University of Oklahoma Press, 2011, 384 pages, $34.95
UM Associate Professor of Anthropology Kelly J. Dixon and two other editors put together a new look at the infamous Donner Party. The story of eighty-some people stranded in the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846-47 has been the subject of more than 300 books, histories, and films, and is known for the survivors’ resorting to cannibalism. Combining history, ethnohistory, archaeology, bioarchaeology, and social anthropology, the editors use the archaeological investigations of the summers of 2003 and 2004 to question old suppositions and add new dimensions to the story.
By Fred Haefele
Bangtail Press, 2011, 145 pages, $16.95
Fred Haefele takes the term “extremophile,” an organism able to thrive in hostile and unlikely environments, and uses it as a lens to unite his seventeen essays. Each portrays people who live and work in Montana and the West, and each conveys Haefele’s admiration for his nonfiction characters. The book is filled with adventures involving rafting, motorcycles, hunting, the Unabomber, firefighting and, of course, writing. Haefele earned his M.F.A. in creative writing at UM and is the author of a memoir, Rebuilding the Indian.
By Robin Troy
University of Nevada Press, 2011, 182 pages, $22
Robin Troy’s novel began when she was working as a staff writer for the Missoula Independent and was desperate for a Christmas-season story. Missoula resident Norm Laughlin, a seasonal Santa whom she met on a barstool at the VFW Post, invited her to his weekly senior bowling game at the old Liberty Lanes. Troy discovered that the hundreds of bowlers in their seventies, eighties, and nineties drink, dance, and date more than she does, and they stay up later, too. Her fiction-writer’s sensibility took off into a novel that explores the differing perspectives of age. Troy earned her M.F.A. in creative writing at UM and teaches at Southern Connecticut State University, where she directs the M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing.
Raptors of the West: Captured in Photographs
By Kate Davis, with photographs by Kate Davis, Rob Palmer, and Nick Dunlop
Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2011, 242 pages, $30
Kate Davis earned her degree in zoology at UM and has gone on to delight and inform thousands of people about raptors with her ambassador birds and her nonprofit Raptors of the Rockies. This collection of more than 400 photographs of the forty-five different birds of prey that fly over the American West takes the reader from Arctic tundra to the Southwest. The big round eyes of the tiny northern saw-whet owl and the direct gaze of the imposing gyrfalcon are among the remarkable images.
Where Elk Roam: Conservation and Biopolitics of Our National Elk Herd
By Bruce L. Smith
Lyons Press, 2011, 266 pages, $18.95
Bruce Smith earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UM, studying the winter ecology of mountain goats in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. He went on to spend twenty-two years of his thirty-year career managing the wildlife on the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming. In his book, Smith tells the history of the National Elk Refuge from its founding in the valley of Jackson Hole in 1912 and also looks at its future. Should wildlife managers continue to winter-feed 25,000 elk despite the risks of disease and habitat damage at the feeding grounds? Could hunting have a place in a national park and wildlife refuge?
Geology Underfoot in Yellowstone Country
By Marc S. Hendrix
Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2011, 312 pages, $24
UM geology Professor Marc Hendrix explains the powerful forces that made the greater Yellowstone National Park area look and smell as it does today. He looks at the Madison limestone formations and sees the shallow seas that covered the landscape six times in the past 500 million years, and he recalls the ancient glaciers whose work is visible along the Beartooth Highway. The book is a roadside guide, with “Getting There” boxes directing the reader to the features Hendrix illuminates.
By Paul Zarzyski
Bangtail Press, 2011, 249 pages, $19.95
Paul Zarzyski, a 1951-model poet who transplanted from Hurley, Wis., to Montana and never looked back, earned his M.F.A. in creative writing at UM under the guiding hand of poet Richard Hugo. He rodeoed as a bareback bronc rider as passionately as he writes and performs poems. Last year marked his twenty-fifth at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev. Here he gives us thirty poems, twenty song lyrics, and one self-interview, where he shows us how he’s put together and what keeps him going.
Laughter Before Sleep
By Robert Pack
The University of Chicago Press, 2011, 141 pages, $18
Robert Pack, who teaches in the Davidson Honors College at UM and is known as an eminent American nature poet, looks at some of his perennial themes through the eyes and sensibility of maturity. Pack’s poetry takes his readers with him on a journey toward the end of life. In “Blindness,” Pack writes of his mother, who lost her sight at ninety-nine. In “Pain,” he looks at the transformation of the mind and emotions by pain of the body. Pack’s poetic look through a lifetime rounds out eighteen books of poems.
If you are a UM alum with a recent book release, don’t forget about your alma mater. To be considered for Bookshelf, you must send a copy of the book, along with any press materials and contact information, to: Montanan, University Relations, 325 Brantly Hall, Missoula, MT 59812. Submission of materials does not guarantee that your work will be featured.
Ginny Merriam lives in Missoula.