cover image The Next Rodeo: New and Selected Essays

The Next Rodeo: New and Selected Essays

William Kittredge. Graywolf Press, $15 (240pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-479-4

The American West writing of author Kittredge (The Willow Field), who grew up on a cattle ranch in Oregon and has lived and worked for three decades in Montana, is known for its honesty and reverence. In this collection of essays, many of which appeared in 2002's Owning It All, Kittredge examines the region's character and contradictions. Describing his personal history with the land, Kittredge considers the area's draw for himself and those who arrived before him, 19th century travelers lured by promises of ""free land, crystalline water, great herds of game... and gold, all in unfettered abundance."" A former creative writing professor, Kittredge has a knack for the poetic, and isn't above putting a mythical sheen on an otherwise skillful and sincere assessment of the alternately challenging and comforting place he calls home. In pieces such as ""How to Love This World,"" ""Lost Cowboys"" and ""The Next Rodeo,"" for example, he speaks of the joys of wandering slow and easy; elsewhere, he worries over a present in which the ""devastation of the interwoven system of life"" is already under way. The reclamation of hope, responsibility and wisdom-the ongoing process of ""redefining what we take to be sacred""-is the driving force behind these effective, at times profound reflections.