Saturday, April 21, 2001

William Kittredge

William Kittredge became a major cultural voice with his 1987 collection of essays Owning It All, which mapped the emotional terrain of the modern West. His memoir, Hole In The Sky,

was marked by questionings, qualifications, wonderings. His task was introspection, the examined life, a cutting away of rationalizations, self-dissection. He explained from the outset that his was a memoir of failure. The book describes his childhood and youth farming in the Warner Valley of southeastern Oregon, up to the point when he is thrust out of that isolated insular Eden.

In his book of short stories We Are Not In This Together, and book of essays Who Owns The West?, Kittredge pursued and dismantled the Western moral code that emphasized independence, hierarchy, private ownership and resource exploitation. Kittredge’s most recent book, published by Knopf in December 2000, is a wide-ranging inquiry. He ponders how to create physical and spiritual sustainability of all creatures. He touches on the cave-paintings at Lacaus, France, the World Bank, Twelfth Century Italian mosaics and the life of Frederico Garcia Lorca. The goal is to reconcile the needs of people with the needs of places and creatures. The Nature of Generosity, Kittredge says, "proceeds more like a dance than an argument."

William Kittredge grew up on the MC Ranch in southeastern Oregon, farmed until he was 35, studied in the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, and became the Regents Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Montana until he retired in the spring of 1997. He received numerous prestigious awards including a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford, two Writing Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and two Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Awards for Excellence. He was co-producer of the movie "A River Runs Through It."

He is also the author of Western novels of the "Cord" Series, the short story collection The Van Gogh Field, and a book of essays Owning It All. With Annick Smith, he edited The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology.

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