this house of sky

I just finished Ivan Doig’s highly acclaimed memoir of growing up in Montana, This House of Sky. This is the kind of writing I treasure, that I stay up too late five nights in a row for and wake up bleary-eyed but satisfied the next morning that my owlness was not for naught. Doig is popularly heralded as one of the premier writers of the West, a notion he’s politely disputed. I’m not well-read enough to know if he’s deserving of such title, but after reading a couple of his books I hold him up in pretty high esteem. I have a few more of his books but I think I’ll space them out for awhile.

At the conclusion of This House of Sky, Doig shares a riveting personal anecdote involving Ellen Creek at Rialto Beach. I was just to Rialto Beach a couple months ago (and crossed Ellen Creek with Adam, as a matter of fact) so that made for a sharp last page to this fine novel.

When I was done reading This House of Sky, I went to my bookshelf and out of curiosity looked some of my Montana-related books over. I thumbed down my thick copy of The Last Best Place, a seminal anthology of the state. I found it when Diana and I were visiting Missoula one summer. I found this bookmark inside and smiled when I saw Doig’s profile on it: Then a little disappointment settled over me. I noticed the night of his reading was the same day I bought The Last Best Place. The receipt from the bookstore was with the bookmark, it shows we were in the store early afternoon. If only I’d been more familiar with Doig’s work back then, doubtless I would have had us take time out to attend the reading that night…..

We had dinner at Smith, tonight.  It’s a restaurant on our part of Capitol Hill, another joint that’s part of the Linda Derschang franchise (among other places, she’s the proprietor of Linda’s Tavern, an institution on the Hill). I liked it: An obvious bastion of laid back coolness as evidenced by the ratio of tattoos-and-pony tails to sensible shoes, animal heads on the walls all the way around the room, good food. I was starving so we ordered the mac and cheese to arrive before the regular course. I ordered the Painted Hills burger…..I’ve always wanted to shoot in the Painted Hills.

I’m looking forward to coming back but Diana was turned off by the loudness of the room, she felt it was too hard to have a normal conversation without a megaphone. Indeed, it was so noisy I found I could hear better if I turned my hearing aid off. The other significant drawback: The bill.  I knew the check was going to be up there because I had a couple glasses of wine, but I groaned inside a little when I saw Diana writing the tip in.

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