What we have here is "one of those weeks." For starters, the "Utah Humanities Book Festival" gets underway this evening and runs through Saturday down at the Salt Lake City Main Library. And if that’s not enough to satisfy the hungry heart, wrapping it all up Saturday night is Mountain Town Stages’ annual "Main Street Music Crawl" back up here in Park City.
Kicking it all off tonight, however, are a couple of quite interesting happenings down at the Bookfest. First out of the chute you got Teresa Jordan, author of "Riding the White Horse Home" and "Raging River, Quiet Mind: Field Notes from the Grand Canyon" presenting a reading as part of a program entitled "Chekhov’s Shorts."
I refuse to take the bait on that one, although the 19th Century Russian short-story icon might well have been rather brazen in his warm weather attire. Actually it’s a new monthly program at the library honoring the short-story art form and featuring special guests performing readings from their favorite authors.
Logistically, this works out rather well for Ms. Jordan in that her husband Hal Cannon, who gave us the Western Folklife Center in Elko with its now world-wide phenomenon of "Cowboy Poetry Gatherings" and, of course, the famed "Deseret String Band" before that, will also perform tonight.
As a member of "Red Rock Rondo," which also features Kate Macleod and the group "Blue Haiku," Cannon will be doing that thing he does as part of the "musical interlude" following the Annual Literary Awards Ceremony. Their Zion Canyon Song Cycle, among other historical sidebars, pays homage to "ghosts in Grafton, stolen quilts in Rockville and moonlight sonatas in Springdale." Generated from oral histories of the area, it’s a major work and a lot of fun.
Tomorrow night features a screening of the film "Paperback Dreams," the "story of two landmark independent bookstores and their struggle to survive. What will make this evening extraordinarily interesting will be the après film panel discussion featuring Betsy Burton (The King’s English), Tony and Katherine Weller (Sam Weller’s), and Ken Sanders (Ken Sanders Rare Books) among others.
Friday has Wanda Coleman, one of my longtime favorite contemporary poets, flaunting her shtick over at Westminster College as part of their Poetry Series. Wanda, who, you might say, comes down on the "edgier" side of poetics, also turns up discussing her fiction writing as part of Saturday afternoon’s lineup back over at the Library.
Saturday is huge as far as being chock full of options. As I have already gone through the lineup and come up with a schedule that best suits my timeframe and tastes, however, one planning on attending the Bookfest should visit the Utah Humanities Council website (utahhumanities.org) and map out their own.
There’s no way I could miss Stephen Trimble hosting a panel discussion of his latest book "Bargaining for Eden: The Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America." This is where Earl Holding and his partner in crime Senator Orrin Hatch appear as microcosmic players in the tale of the infamous "Snowbasin land swap."
With all the other underhanded shenanigans that took place as the "SLOC" attempted to secure the 2002 Winter Games Olympic bid, the "land swap" kept a somewhat lower profile. The panel will review the process by which public land that generations of locals held dear came to be privatized "for the general good."
Another panel discussion that, to borrow a baseball metaphor, is nestled well "within my wheelhouse," is "Wallace Stegner’s Utah: A Conversation at the Centennial." Stegner, who besides being one of America’s most profound writers and thinkers, had quite a Utah history, of course.
With the centennial of his birth fast approaching (February 18), much hoopla honoring the man is scheduled throughout the country, especially the west, and this panel is part of that.
And then there is the list of his disciples. A teacher and mentor to the likes of Wendell Barry, Larry McMurtry, Thomas McGuane, Raymond Carver, Edward Abbey, Ken Kesey, and Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Haas, Stegner cut a huge artistic and philosophical swath that continues to resonate through our time.
Terry Tempest Williams, another shining light in Utah literature, is also featured at this years gathering. Her latest, the newly published "Finding Beauty in a Broken World" takes the reader from Italy to the American southwest and to Rawanda as she attempts to redefine a sense of family, community, and species.
So, if after a day of digesting a plate of such scrumptious brain food, you are in search of a bit of dessert for the soul, well, do I have a confection for you. As a participant the last couple of years in Mountain Town Stages "Music Crawl" fundraisers, I can truly attest that you will be "quite full of it" by the time the evening finally comes to a close.
During a time when all of Park City’s non-profits could use a bit of community support and the rest of us could use a rompin’ night on the town, the "Main Street Music Crawl" shows up to soothe the savage beast. Kicking-off at the Star Bar at 7 p.m. and later parading down Main Street to other designated dance floors, it’s the perfect way to finish off the week.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.
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