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For the week of January 31 through February 6, 2001

Grappling with the West

West Word reading series begins Thursday

Express Arts Editor

"The real world goes like this: The Neversummer Mountains like a jumble of broken glass. Snowfields weep slowly down. Chambers Lake, ringed by trees, gratefully catches the drip in its tin cup, and gives the mountains their own reflection in return. This is the real world, indifferent, unburdened."

So begins James Galvinís 1992 novel, The Meadow. If presented a little differently, the passage might be a poem, and, in fact, may have begun as one. Whether poetry or prose, the writing expresses the way this place in which we live, the West, holds a presence in our imaginations.

While it is not unusual for place to play such a role in fiction--to the point of being the unnamed character in the plot--it seems that the West, because of its size, demands a larger piece of turf in our consciousness.

No doubt the West is a loaded word and place. In contrast to the openness of the land, the people and the issues they bring to it are complex and varied. This may be why it continues to thread its way through our literature and our lives.

Kicking off a five-part series of readings entitled West Word: Fiction from the New West, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts will present James Galvin reading from his latest novel, Fencing the Sky, Thursday at 7 p.m. A reception and book signing will follow the reading.

Galvin, a native of Northern Colorado and currently director of the University of Iowa Writerís Workshop, is the also the author of several books of poetry, including Imaginary Timber, Godís Mistress and Lethal Frequencies.

The idea for the reading series came out of last yearís Western Issues Conference. Historian and author Richard White pointed out that the stories we tell about the West have the ability to shape our perspective of the past and the future. Because the West is growing and changing so quickly, White said, new stories are needed to reflect our modern concerns.

Even the title of Galvinís recent novel, Fencing the Sky, underscores the contradictions and impulses that course through modern life in the West.

To shine light on the stories of the West that are being told now, the center is bringing in five authors to read from their work. Other writers scheduled to read are Brady Udall (Letting Loose the Hounds) on Feb. 22, David Treuer (The Hiawatha) on March 1, Karla Kuban (Marchlands) on March 8 and Susan Straight (Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights) on March 29.


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