CORVALLIS — Corvallis has long been known for its talented and creative citizenry. Where else can you find not one, but three championship fiddlers? We claim more than our fair share of great local bands and solo musicians and half a dozen active local theater groups. Even top-notch mixologists staff the local watering holes.
Occupying a quieter role in our teeming township are many accomplished writers. In all, more than 30 new books, not counting purely academic texts, were published by local authors in the last year. The stack of freshly bound volumes includes histories, nonfiction and fiction, kids’ books, plays, poetry and more.
Throughout the year many of these books were heralded at the “Magic Barrel Reading to Fight Hunger,” library and bookstore events. The list below (in no particular order), attempts to draw attention to some of the standout projects of the year. All of the following authors either grew up in Corvallis or live or work here now.
Earlier this month, Tracy Daugherty, a distinguished professor of English and creative writing at Oregon State University, was recognized on the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2009 list for his latest book, “Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme.”
The book, released through St. Martin’s Press, has received near-universal critical acclaim, and recently won a 2009 Oregon Book Award.
It’s a beautifully written and designed book on an American author known for his playful, postmodernist style of short fiction.
Daugherty was a student of Barthelme’s during the writer’s late-life employment at the University of Houston, which means Hiding Man is a tribute to a friend as well as an academic and journalistic exercise.
“Hiding Man” is Daugherty’s ninth book. He is also the author of three collections of short stories and a book of personal essays.
‘Savages and Scoundrels’
In “Savages and Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America’s Road to Empire through Indian Territory” (Yale University Press), Paul VanDevelder discusses what happened in the early days of our nation when white settlers claimed Native American lands for themselves.
In particular the book follows the evolution of the Treaty at Horse Creek in 1851 — a major, legally binding treaty that promised to preserve Native American homelands — and how it was repeatedly violated into oblivion.
VanDevelder, a longtime Corvallis resident, grew up in Mexico City, Mexico. A freelance writer for the past 18 years, VanDevelder said giving up the security of working as a photojournalist for the Arizona Daily Star and the Corvallis Gazette-Times was frightening — but has proven to be ultimately liberating.
His first book, “Coyote Warrior: One Man, Three Tribes, and the Trial That Forged a Nation” (2004), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, and is now taught in more than 30 universities. In addition to his books, he’s a frequent contributor to Audubon, Sierra, High Country News and the L.A. Times.
‘Where Men Win Glory’
Pat Tillman, an unlikely football hero and unlikelier warrior, went to Afghanistan and got accidentally killed by the men in his own Ranger platoon. Among the many shadows former Corvallis resident Jon Krakauer (later a Seattle resident, now living in Boulder, Colo.) illuminates in his compelling and dispiriting book, “Where Men Win Glory,” is the commonness of such tragedies in high-tech warfare.
But the story here isn’t Tillman’s unexceptional death, or exceptional life for that matter, but what Krakauer sees as a political crime committed by the Bush administration’s propaganda machine as it tried to make Tillman a martyr in the global war on terror.
Krakauer — whose forensic studies in books such as “Under the Banner of Heaven,” “Into Thin Air” and “Into the Wild” does an excellent bit of reporting, documenting Tillman’s life with journals and interviews with those close to him. And yet a full understanding of Tillman’s motivations eludes Krakauer, and us.
‘The First Paul’
Marcus J. Borg, author of the best-seller “Heart of Christianity,” is Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University and author of the bestselling “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time,” “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time” and “The God We Never Knew” and coauthor of “Jesus: A New Vision” with N. T. Wright. He was an active member of the Jesus Seminar when it focused on the historical Jesus and he has been chair of the Historical Jesus section of the Society of Biblical Literature.
Bestselling authors of “The Last Week” and “The First Christmas,” Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan join once again to present a new understanding of early Christianity — this time to reveal a radical Paul who has been suppressed by the church.
‘A Heart for Any Fate’
Despite taking only one class in creative writing while a student at University of Oregon, Linda Crew has had a long and successful run as a freelance writer and novelist.
Her latest book, “A Heart for Any Fate: Westward to Oregon 1845,” follows the story of 17-year-old Lovisa King, who traveled the Oregon Trail with her family in 1845. Her family settled in what is now known as Kings Valley, west of Corvallis.
This year, Random House also issued a 20th anniversary edition of Crew’s first novel, “Children of the River,” and there is a new edition of “Fire on the Wind.” Other books by Crew include: “Nekomah Creek,” “Nekomah Creek Christmas,” “Long Time Passing,” “Someday I’ll Laugh About This,” “Brides of Eden: A True Story Imagined” and “Ordinary Miracles.” A great part about reading her books is recognizing local geography and places.
Linda Crew and her family live just south of town at Wake Robin Farm.
Kathleen Dean Moore
Kathleen Dean Moore is an essayist, philosophy professor, activist and lover of all things green or flowing. Her first book of nature essays, “Riverwalking: Reflections on Moving Water,” is set on Oregon’s wild rivers. The rocky intertidal edge of the sea is the setting for the essays in “Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World.” “The Pine Island Paradox” makes the case for an ethic of care based on the kinship of all being. Her books have won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Award, the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award and the Oregon Book Award. Her new book of essays, “Wild Comfort: A Book of Healing” (Spring, Shambhala), tells of the Earth’s power to move us from sorrow to courage and hope.
Moore is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and University Writer Laureate at Oregon State University in Corvallis, where she teaches environmental ethics, Native American philosophy, and a field course on the philosophy of nature. She is also the founding director of the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word.
In October, Moore was a guest on NPR’s “Philosophy Talk” which asked the question: Is it wrong to wreck the Earth? The episode will be re-aired the week of Jan. 3.
Former college and professional football player Michael Oriard explores a wide range of trends that have changed the face of college football in “Bowled Over: Big-Time College Football from the Sixties to the BCS Era” (UNC Press).
He gives close attention to decisions by the NCAA in the early 1970s that helped transform student-athletes into athlete-students and turned the college game into a virtual farm league for professional football. The relentless necessity to pursue revenue, he argues, undermines attempts to maintain academic standards, and it fosters a football culture in which athletes are both excessively entitled and exploited.
Oriard is Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University. He was offensive captain and a second-team All-American at the University of Notre Dame and played four years with the Kansas City Chiefs. He is the author of six previous books on sports in American literature and culture, including “Brand NFL: Making and Selling America’s Favorite Sport.”
‘Northwest of Normal’
John Larison’s first novel, “Northwest of Normal,” captures some of the best fish stories in western Oregon. While he was writing the book, the Oregon State University English instructor drew on his experiences working as a fly-fishing guide on the McKenzie River. He was living in the Eugene area, which he said is filled with larger-than-life characters.
Larison, 29, grew up in Philomath and attended school in Corvallis through his sophomore year, before moving to Ithaca, N.Y., with his family. He later returned to the Northwest and after teaching high school for three years in Eugene, Larison enrolled in the creative writing program at Oregon State University. Ted Leeson, the author of several books and a fly-fisherman, served as a mentor, and showed Larison that you could be in both academics and the fishing world.
Larison already is working on his second novel, “Finding Bigfoot,” which will tackle political attacks on science and eco-terrorism in the Pacific Northwest. He also has written a book on fishing, “The Complete Steelheader,” and is a frequent contributor to outdoor publications such as Gray’s Sporting Journal and Fly Fisherman.
Ted Cox, local author and owner of the Old World Deli and Arts Center, took four years to carefully research and write his new book, “Murray Loop: Journey of an Oregon Family 1808-1949,” using letters and diaries and including many historic photos and maps.
“Murray Loop” threads together the story of one family across generations and a 5,000-mile journey from Scotland to Oregon’s Coast Range. The book is Cox’s second to tackle regional history, after 2005’s “The Toledo Incident of 1925: Three Days that Made History in Toledo, Oregon.”
Both of Cox’s books have been published through his own company Old World Publications.
‘My Oregon II’
Bob Welch marked his 20th year at The Register-Guard and 10th as a columnist this fall.
He is the author of 12 books, his latest being “My Oregon II,” a collection of 108 Register-Guard columns appearing between 2005 and 2009.
Despite his long tenure at the R-G, Welch has deep roots in Beaver Country. He is a 1972 graduate of Corvallis High School and also happens to be the younger brother of Corvallis author Linda Crew, who is also on this year’s list.
See a list of 20 other local authors who published this year with this story online.
More local authors with books published this year:
Bob Hazelton (“Dad’s Matter)
Mark Minor (“A House Divided”)
Kristin Barker and Gary Tiedeman (editors) (“Haiku for Sociologists”)
Tom McClintock (“The Best Gift”)
Thomas A Spies and Sally L. Duncan (“Old Growth In the New World”)
Paul Farber (“Race and Science”)
Richmond Barbour (“The Third Voyage Journals”)
David Biespiel (“The Book of Men and Women,” poetry)
Bruce McCune and Linda Geiser (“Microlichens of the Pacific Northwest”)
Catherine VanWetter (“Overcomer’s Inc”)
Don Green (“Living on Lightening”)
Sandy McCulloch (“Fire in the Ice Age”)
Elizabeth Tollerton (“Corvallis Children’s Design With Color Book”)
Donna Henderson (“The Eddy Fence,” poetry)
Jessica Lamb (“Last Apples of Late Empires,” poetry)
Tom Romano (“Jeweled Travelers of the Skies”)
Matt Love (“Super Sunday in Newport”)
Michele Longo Eder (“Salt in Our Blood”)
Dan Schallau (“Come Back Soon”)
Rolf McEwen (four new plays and two humor books)
Did we miss your book? Contact Entertainer editor Nancy Raskauskas at email@example.com or 541-758-9542.