Contributed By:

Emily Harris

Northwest Passages: William Kittredge

OPB | Dec. 23, 2010 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:46 p.m.

William Kittredge is an icon among Western writers. He grew up farming and ranching in southeastern Oregon, part of a family that helped transform that landscape. But after a series of personal and philosophical struggles, Kittredge left ranching for writing. His first major book, Owning It All, is a collection of essays that’s been said to have “mapped the emotional terrain of the modern West.”

In his memoir, Hole In The Sky, Kittredge set out his hopes for his reflections.

Maybe this is a set of sad stories about the ways we learn to distance ourselves, and teach our children such distance. Maybe it is a cautionary tale. But I hope not. I want this to be a story about the way a sense of connection to the energies of everything can sweep over us; and why I think that sense of connection is supremely valuable.

William Kittredge left Oregon in 1968 for grad school at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He began teaching at the University of Montana the following year and is now an emeritus professor. After a career built on essays and other non-fiction, he “ran out of passion” for that so wrote his first novel. Now 78 years old, Kittredge is working on a second novel. (And why that is a novel, not non-fiction, is a great story you’ll hear on the show!)

He says:

I write when I have something to write. I let thoughts pile up, then begin to see things, suddenly, this lines up for that and here we go.

Have you read any of William Kittredge’s work? What sticks with you? Are you from southeastern Oregon? How did his writing impact you? What questions do you have for William Kittredge?

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