Magazine article Humanities

A Bumper Crop of Literary Events

Magazine article Humanities

A Bumper Crop of Literary Events

Article excerpt

"WE WERE FAMISHED FOR SOMETHING read," writes Cranville Stuart, a miner and cattle owner who became the Montana state librarian in the late 1800s. When he and his brother heard of a man with a trunk full of books, they traversed one hundred and fifty miles and several dangerous rivers to obtain five books. Stuart's expedition has become the stuff of legend in Montana.

This year the state is celebrating its literary heritage with a sampling of programs that includes the fourth annual state book festival. Montana will also be one of eight state humanities councils participating in the National Book Festival to be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on October 4.

The national festival will involve the humanities councils from Arizona, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia. The Library of Congress sponsors the festival in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Humanities and Centers for the Book across the country. The event drew 45,000 people to the National Mall last year, and the Center for the Book expects even more to attend this year.

In Montana, the land and literature have always been unified. "You think not in terms of streets and addresses, but in terms of physical features," says Mark Sherouse, executive director of the Montana Humanities Council. "I've never met a character in Montana who wasn't interesting, and who didn't have an interesting story. But they all relate to place."

Montana's literary tradition has its roots in the writings of Cranville Stuart, Walter McClintock, and Lewis and Clark, and twentieth-century writers such as A. B. Guthrie, Richard Hugo, and Tim Cahill.

The state's rugged legacy continues with the selection of Mildred Walker's novel Winter Wheat for the inaugural One Book Montana. The novel chronicles the life of a young woman living on a wheat farm in the northern part of the state, whose story spans two world wars. …

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