FALL 1997 Montanan - Volume 14, Number 2
Into the Great Wide Open
by Kevin Canty.
Canty is a new creative writing professor at UM. New York: Doubleday, 1996. 244 pp. $21.95 hardcover.
As Kevin Canty shapes a world for Kenny Kolodny, the teenaged protagonist of his first novel, the writer plunges himself into the inflated melodrama of adolescence. This is a dark tale of languishing hopes, and Canty deftly creates a fully realized universe.
The writer captures the isolation of adolescence in its self-defined darkness. "Work is stupid," says Kenny. "Getting along with your parents is stupid, not getting along with your parents is stupid. You go out with somebody, most of the time that's stupid, and then you break up with them and everything's stupid for a while. Either they dropped you, so you wander around with your stupid feelings hanging out all over the place, or you dropped them, so you feel superior, which is really stupid."
Kenny, who at times seems to be the only character in this novel, is prone to such hopeless absolutes, and his words perpetually evoke the world and time of being under twenty. He doesn't have much going for him. His mother is institutionalized somewhere, and his drunken father should be. His communication is measured in bursts of smart and angry wisecracks with his best friend and then becomes more limited once his barely sentient father has a stroke.
In an attempt to connect, Kenny starts up a tentative affair with Junie, and together they exhibit the nihilism and inarticulateness of seventeen-year-olds. They play out sex scenes-never sexy-that bear the battle scars of early trauma. The ache and confusion of getting involved as teenagers comes through with painful clarity.
The novel wisely does not strive for resolution. Instead, Canty takes aim at a suspended time of life and, with precision, fires.
Lost Landscapes and Failed Economies:The Search for a Value of Place
by Thomas Michael Power.
Power chairs UM's economics department. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1996, 304 pp. $29.95 hardcover.
"This book seeks to persuade readers that there is something counter- productive and even dangerous about the way we usually think and talk about our local economies," starts Thomas Michael Power in his provocative preface to Lost Landscapes and Failed Economies. The author seems to thrive on conflict, recognizing that debate and discussion are the foundations on which theory is built, and, in turn, its useful product.
In his level-headed book, Power explores many different economic models, especially Montana's, where the economy rises and falls with timber, mining and tourism. While Power suggests that neither environmentalists nor corporate raiders hold the solutions for a viable working environment (which must be habitable to be valuable), he also recognizes that the desired fragile balance between the two is not so easy to achieve.
In his instructive use of mining as a model, Power points out that the promise of jobs does not, in fact, equal the supply of jobs. And, if those jobs materialize, Powers suggests that a significant portion may go to outsiders. In short, nothing is simple.
Lost Landscapes and Failed Economies provides the reader with a well-defined argument against folk economics. Here is a consideration of the many elements at work in nonmetropolitan environments, the effects of extractive industries (e.g. timber) and the role of community in the economy. The book is especially illuminating for readers dulled by hollow political rhetoric on the local issues of a struggling economy. By convincing us to rethink our understanding of economic issues, Power succeeds in the mission stated in his preface.
by Patricia Goedicke.
Goedicke is a professor of creative writing at UM. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1996. 163 pp. $12.95 paper.
In her eleventh collection of poetry, Patricia Goedicke gathers up such a dense and intricate book that Invisible Horses seems to be a poetic novel of the brain, if the brain had a narrative, a center and a hero. The book, divided into three sections, is an evolution of sorts, moving from thought to body to music, the imagery growing increasingly more sophisticated.
Goedicke mines drama here, narrating a thrilling story, a rousing cry. She examines the elusive nature of being alive, how glorious and melancholy it is at the same time, happening and passing at once "like mayflies swarming" or "the deep cherrywood sound/of the piano you heard last night."
"It is like being a thought," reads a startling and simple sentence in the opening poem, "Recipe," which tries to define being alive. The next poem, "Uncharted," continues on the twin themes of life and communication:
hanging against the flow like a trout
or a chandelier, with diamond gills trembling,
inside you there's a whole city,
crowds breathing in your throat....
In "Whirling Dervishes I" she takes on the intricate mysteries of the brain, pondering the recurring questions of the book: "How do we think?" and "Why do we think?" Obsessed by thought's dual nature of control and chaos, Goedicke delights in the idea that even at our highest level of productive thought, things happen in spite of us: music happens in the vibrations around us, which we can't control; in "the reedy click/and wheedle of smaller birds." Even her writing conveys this dualism, as Goedicke pushes against her writer's control with her own restlessness, piling contrary images upon each other, like the trout and the chandelier, to describe a single thing.
She nods to Coleridge, Wallace Stevens and Elizabeth Bishop, almost inhabited by visions in her ecstatic, yet controlled, frenzy of words. She quotes Nietzsche in the epigraph to Part II: "You say 'I' and you are proud of this word. But greater than this - although you will not believe in it - is your body and its great intelligence, which does not say 'I' but performs 'I.'" For Goedicke, this placement of bodies and minds in the jumbled universe is riveting.
"What lonely sounds/the mind makes, collecting itself," Goedicke writes, but this book belies her sentiment. She bounds through the world of language, appropriating not just what she needs but everything she needs. Invisible Horses leaves the fortunate reader feeling deliciously, sensuously satiated.
Famous friends of the wolf cook book
The following recipe is excerpted from Famous Friends of the Wolf Cookbook, compiled by Nancy Reid and Sheila Lierman '80, with color photographs by Jim Dutcher and Jim Brandenburg. Holbrook, Mass.: Adams Media Corporation, 1996. 160 pp. $30.00 hardcover.
Tom Brokaw's Montana Granola
1-2 cups pitted dates, prunes,raisins or other fruit
4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup wheat germ
1 1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup oil (Canola or any veg-etable oil)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Snip dried fruit into small pieces and set aside. In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut, nuts, wheat germ and sesame seeds. Set aside. Combine honey and oil in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil while stirring over medium heat. Pour the honey/oil combination into the oatmeal mixture and blend well. Divide new mixture between two 9x13-inch baking pans. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to avoid burning. Toss in fruit when cool. Store in an airtight container for best results.
Makes approximately 1 1/2 pounds granola.
Originally from South Dakota, Tom Brokaw is an anchor for NBC News. His favorite plave on the globe is the dirt road in sight of the Beartooth Mountains near his Montana home.