So I’ve been reading Stephen Graham Jones’s new novel, Ledfeather, which gives up northern Montana as a dreamscape in both time and place. The stor(ies) take place in an almost alternate-universe approach of dual stories, one set in the present, near the town of Browning, where Blackfoot (or Piegan) nation American Indians blow all their money in local, hardluck casinos and drink themselves to death, or beat their heads against the limits of their lives, try to kill themselves by running into busy traffic. The other storyline unfolds in late 19th century Montana territory, where an Indian agent struggles to do well by his charges, misses his wife, and descends into madness. I think. I say that because reading Stephen’s novels is a trip: Like driving through some hypnotic countryside nonstop  (like one time when I drove nonstop from Seattle to Houston, wired on coffee and no-doze: arrived in downtown Houston in early morning rush hour, which was a mistake), where you don’t know where you are from one minute to the next, but the landscape feels like it’s crawling into your car and brain. Stephen is a terrific writer, a force of nature. (He was a student of mine in 1995.) My favorite novel of his is The Fast Red Road, and favorite book is Bleed Into Me, stories. Another reason I like Ledfeather: I was up in Glacier National Park last September, at the Lake McDonald Lodge right before it closed for the winter. That drive on the Going to the Sun Highway is featured in that great opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (the other side, beside St. Mary Lake). The forests and lakes are better than Sequoia, great red cedars overhanging the lakes with shorelines of polished stones. We backpacked with our two year old daughter who would call out, right in my ear, at the top of her lungs, “Gibby! Gibby!” if she lost her pacifier, which seemed often.

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