cover image Who Owns the West?

Who Owns the West?

William Kittredge. Mercury House, $14.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-1-56279-078-3

Westerners have always had the difficult job of fulfilling the American dream of escape. But at what cost? Those arid stretches of desert and snow-peaked mountain ranges entail responsibilities forgotten long ago on the coasts and in the Midwest, or so Kittredge (Hole in the Sky) might argue. The West is our largest and our last natural resource. As their timber and wildlife dwindle at alarming rates, Westerners have been forced to negotiate razor-sharp moral and ethical high-wires. This balancing act playing out across social and economic classes is what defines the new West-not the encroaching geography of strip malls and coffee bars. Kittredge's meditation portrays the awkward lives of everyday people-writers, hunters, ranchers-who believe that if they gain even the smallest grip on their personal histories, they may regain some piece of their horribly depleted lands. Raymond Carver, depicted here in the brave last months of his life, proves a fitting metaphor. He fled west from cancer, hoping for another in what had been a fortunate series of fresh starts after he combatted and finally beat alcoholism. Like Carver at his best, Kittredge composes a prose well suited to ``a story that encourages us to understand that the living world cannot be replicated.'' (Feb.)