Shooting Up Jeeps and Literary Likes

By Beacon Staff

Good storytelling has a good beginning, a good ending and wanders somewhere compelling in between. That’s exactly what the inaugural Whitefish Review does. The 128-page collection of art, literature, and photography is worth a stroll, for it pulls you onto the page with best-selling author Tim Cahill, roams through multihued works, and ends with one of the west’s best writers – William Kittredge.

Between Cahill and Kittredge, the Whitefish Review parades out 22 more writers, poets, photographers, and artists who, as Editor in Chief Brian Schott says, “captivate and illuminate” something about mountain culture. They address forlorn sadness in a drinker’s eye, the irony of wilderness reflected in a Coke machine, and hearing the land’s voice as it speaks. Some carry the sweet scent of familiar writers painting local places; others are newcomers penciling unusual landscapes.

Co-edited by Mike Powers, Ryan Friel, and Tom Mull, along with graphic artist Ian Griffiths, the review is immediately suspect because its literary and artistic blossoms were plucked by ski bums with degrees from prestigious eastern colleges. After all, could the ski buddies muster intellectual savvy beyond beer talk after a day of powder shots?

“Drew Bledsoe and the Art of Football” proves the editors can. While the title sounds like something for the Sports Illustrated crowd, the interview succeeds in painting a real person – someone who once lived on wheels, learned to ski in rubber wading boots hooked to a chopped off pair of old skis, and wrestled with the big no-no of jiving skiing with football. In spite of his NFL football superhero training, Bledsoe comes off as human as the rest of us, “roll[ing] into ski season thinking I’d be in shape,” but never having his ski legs.

The most humorous piece, “Hunter Thompson, Shootist,” previews Jay Cowan’s new non-fiction book “Hunter Thompson: Glory Days” due out next spring. Because Cowan lived next door to the famed author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” he rustled up plenty of first-hand narratives chronicling the gun games we’d expect of Thompson: shooting at posters and magpies and blowing up a dynamite-filled, gasoline-soaked jeep. But the anecdotes are fodder for questioning Thompson’s suicide: How could such a bad shot succeed at shooting himself?

Schott not only has an eye for other writer’s works, but can rip imagery across the page himself. In “Rumble Strips,” his own fiction tweaks a tale of chilling failure with a road construction worker named Jake, who can’t seem to get his life headed for the better. Even in Jake’s illusory moment of happiness, a provocative undercurrent grates between reality and the rusting trailer eaves.

For those who thrive on experiencing the outdoors through physical exertion, Matt Holloway’s “Julie” yanks deep inside readers with gut-ripping realism. In a look at one night for a quadriplegic, he assumes the eyes of a lover who will get little in return for his affections. As he plays Sherpa in the North Fork, the story counterpoises a selfless love against a loss that would shatter most of us. Readers will long for more literary ventures from Holloway, a Whitefish High School English teacher.

Sipping the first issue of the Whitefish Review makes you realize that not all literary magazines must be brewed in the bowels of dusty academia. Maybe it just goes to show you that good things can happen with ski buddies.

Copies of the Whitefish Review ($10) are available for purchase at local bookstores and at www.whitefishreview.com.