Lovers of Western literature mourn the recent passing of two of the genre’s most notable craftsmen. Ivan Doig, who died last week at his home in Seattle, wrote novels that rollicked and sprawled across Montana. He was predeceased by Kent Haruf, whose meditative depictions of small town Colorado life are famous for their celebrations of community. Haruf passed away in November.
Their memorable works were often rooted in the ranch, but they are far from being cowboy stories. Instead they are portrayals of lives that intertwine, towns that become communities, and neighbors who become families.
Haruf and Doig were finalists for the National Book Award (for Plainsong and This House of Sky, respectively) and both won the Wallace Stegner Award, presented to those who have “made a sustained contribution to the cultural identity of the West.”
This leads to contemplating other works that have impacted me. The list includes All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, The Work of Wolves by Kent Meyers, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris, Winter Range by Claire Davis, Larry Watson’s Montana 1948, Horseman, Pass by by Larry McMurtry and A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean. Stretching the boundaries of the “West,” I would also include Goodnight, Nebraska by Tom McNeal, Deadwood by Pete Dexter and Peace Like A River by Leif Enger.
I know that I have omitted many outstanding authors and titles. Join the discussion; what do you consider representative of the West?