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Original Essays | June 20, 2014 1 comment
It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches... Continue »
Ivan DoigDescribe your latest project.
"Can't cook, but doesn't bite." It is only the line atop a classified advertisement in a weekly newspaper, that of "an A-1 housekeeper, sound morals, exceptional disposition" seeking to relocate to Montana early in the twentieth century. But for young Paul Milliron, his two younger brothers and his widower father, and his rambunctious fellow students in their one-room school, it spells abracadabra.
Paul is the voice of the book: a bit wry, contemplative, and literally bedeviled by dreams lifelong, he has had the disturbing knack of vividly recalling the episodes of imagination that swirl in his mind at night. Paul has risen to become the state superintendent of education, and at the vantage point of 1957, strapped for budget in what he knows is going to be a changed world of education because of the Soviet landing of Sputnik, he is facing what is more like a nightmare, everything he has believed in is "eclipsed by this Russian kettle of gadgetry orbiting overhead." In his heart he knows the powerful political pressures on him to "consolidate" the rural one-room schools, which will be the death knell of those perky idiosyncratic little institutions such as the one that produced him at Marias Coulee.
Before his crucial convocation of rural educators to give them his decision, though, he impulsively drives out to Marias Coulee, now a scatter of mostly abandoned homesteads just beyond the northern fringe of a successful irrigation project. There the story begins, with Paul swept back in memory to 1910 when the Milliron family's hard-bargained new housekeeper, Rose Llewelynn, and her unannounced brother step down from the train, "bringing several kinds of education to the waiting four of us."
If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good
book with which to start.
Notice the magic "this" casts: this time boy, oh boy, what happened those other times; what's gonna happen this time?
How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read
After five years of high school the final November arrives and leaves as suddenly as a spring storm. Exams. Graduation. Huge beach parties. Biggie and me, we're feverish with anticipation; we steel ourselves for a season of pandemonium. But after the initial celebration, nothing really happens, not even summer itself.
Why do you write?
Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration
and talk a little about their work.
Here's a set of quotes from Bill Reid I came across while I was structuring Winter Brothers:
Make a question of your own, then answer it.
A: Because it's a chance to flagrantly indulge in what my friend Norman Maclean said was the secret of writers like him and me, the poetry under the prose. From the snatch of 19th-century Scandinavian drinking song in The Sea Runners to the old Scottish ballad (entirely made up by me) that provided the book title I wanted to use, Dancing at the Rascal Fair, to the "spirit songs" Monty Rathburn sings during the Harlem Renaissance in Prairie Nocturne, I have tailored rhyme and rhythm, to fit the time period, in all eight of my novels.
Although there's only one dab of singing in The Whistling Season, when the Marias Coulee community of homesteaders greets the appearance of Halley's Comet in the Montana sky of 1910 with, "When I see that evening star/Then I know that I've come far/Through the day, through all the plight/To the watchfire of the night, I seem to be more hooked than ever." Note: the front rhymes (When/Then and Through/To) as well as the line endings.