Last night I attended a reading by Ivan Doig for his new novel, Work Song (2010). His reading was at Village Books here in Bellingham, WA, in a large room with standing room only.
Ivan Doig is a fine writer of memoir and novels. In the Pacific Northwest, Doig is an iconic figure. Originally from Montana, he has lived in Seattle for many years now. On the front cover of his memoir, there is a telling quote: “Doig must now be considered the premier writer of the American West.” – Chicago Sun-Times.
This is quite a claim, and arguably still true. I would mention that other writers have written brilliantly about the American West, also. A few examples come to mind, including two of my favorites, Terry Tempest Williams and Rebecca Solnit. Elsewhere I have written about Williams’ book Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place (1991).
Solnit’s Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Hidden Wars of the American West (1994) deserves a mention. I would include Edward Abbey and Timothy Egan in this group, also.
Doig’s memoir, This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind (1978), is an exceptionally well written and absorbing memoir. I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially if you are interested in the American West.
Tonight I knew that I wouldn’t be able to purchase Doig’s new novel Work Song (well, not yet – anyway), so I took my copy of of This House of Sky with me. I was hoping to have a chance to chat with Doig and ask him to sign his older book for me.
Summer is here in Bellingham, and the Readings Gallery was hot and crowded. So, I slipped out after the end of his reading. I escaped the feeling of being bemused or embarassed as I handed him a copy of a book he had written some 32 years ago to autograph!
Doig is a vigorous man who has a couple of physical challenges (eyes and hand); however, he just gets on with what he needs to do. He is a fine writer and a fine reader. He has a great voice and sense of humor. I enjoyed his reading immensely.
Doig’s website page for Work Song: