"Every kind of writing is good save that which bores."
The Pacific Northwest of the United States, embracing Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and western Montana, has long been a major source of agricultural and mineral wealth. For generations it has also served as a center for the fine arts, but only recently has it done the same for literature. Since the end of the Second World War, when the region experienced rapid growth, a loosely allied group of writers have claimed the Northwest's places as their own. The most visible of them have been natives Richard Hugo, William Stafford, William Kittredge, Norman Maclean, Ken Kesey, Raymond Carver, Ivan Doig, and James Welch, along with transplants like Annick Smith, Rick Bass, and Thomas McGuane.
These writers have collectively produced a large shelf of books in the last two decades at, or so it seems, an ever-quickening pace. Bass, for instance, an accomplished young writer, is working simultaneously on 18 books, surely a record for ambition. Soon after the publication of his monumental anthology of literature about Montana, The Last Best Place, William Kittredge completed his newly released memoir Hole in the Sky, which seems destined to become a standard. Each season brings new offerings from the flourishing Northwestern states—which as recently as a decade ago were considered, in the words...