Escape From Gotham

When novelist Larry Woiwode moved to a house and a little piece of land just off State Highway 21 in the loneliest corner of North Dakota, he left behind the world of New York and the New Yorker for a part of America which, if it conjures any image in the coastal mind, is that of "flyover" land. Woiwode's time in North Dakota has been spent mostly on the business of living, but he has done some good writing as well. His most recent book, What I Think I Did, is an unusual memoir for which his last work, Acts, seems to have been an exploration of sorts. The book is part chronicle of a winter on his 300-acre ranch and farm (or "garden-patch" as his neighbors with more typically Western land-holdings call it), and part literary memoir. The narrative shifts back and forth between memories of Woiwode's college days and early years writing for the New Yorker, and scenes from the gritty day-to-day business of keeping livestock and family warm and fed during the long 1997 spring blizzard that will remain a vivid memory throughout the northern high plains for decades to come.

Woiwode has decided to heat his house and office-shed with a new woodburning furnace that he has shipped in from more wooded parts. What might seem like an inexplicable decision to those who have seen western North Dakota has actually a bit more method than madness to it, for Woiwode has noticed the rows of dying shelterbelts...

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