On May 2, 2013, I had the pleasure of presenting Opportunity, Montana: Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Lanscape at Monkeywrench Books in Austin, Texas. Austin’s KOOP Radio, in the person of producer Allan Campbell, was kind enough to record the event for KOOP’s People United show, which has ARCHIVED THE AUDIO HERE.
Or you can just CLICK HERE TO HEAR THE WHOLE THING.
Big thanks to Monkeywrench, KOOP 91.7 FM, and all the friends who came out to listen.
So a gentleman by the name of Marshal Zeringue who publishes a blog promoting new books asked me to participate in an exercise he calls “My Book, The Movie.” Which is funny, because of all the books with a shot at being turned into movies, mine is probably last in line.
Honestly, I’ve never held out a lot of hope for Opportunity, Montana‘s commercial prospects. It’s just not a book that has bestseller written all over it, and that’s fine by me. If I’d written the thing for money, I’d be a bigger idiot than I care to admit. That said, of course, I wrote the thing to be read, and one of my fondest ambitions for the book is that it might be reviewed by a skilled, thoughtful writer devoting the time and the brainspace to consider it—pro or con—on its merits.
And hey, here it is: Cara Chamberlain, apparently freelancing for the Billings (MT) Gazette, has given the book a lovely review that, in my humble opinion, hits the nail on the head.
Here’s a favorite graf:
Throughout, Tyer blends nature writing and memoir, focused on his estrangement from a perfectionist father, with cultural history and journalistic reporting, including interviews with a variety of local players. The mix can seem a bit unwieldy. But the result is an engaging, almost breathtaking bit of nonfiction.”
Couldn’t have asked for more than that….
Should’ve posted this when it came out. Apparently the book has fans at Publishers Weekly. After giving the thing a starred review, they followed up by asking me to write a thousand words on favorite books about small towns. I had to scramble to come up with this, but it was definitely fun. Also fun to have PW refer to Opportunity in the intro as:
… a moving, entertaining, and a truly remarkable debut…
The list starts with my friend Nate Blakeslee’s Tulia:
1. Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town by Nate Blakeslee - In the late 1990s, a crooked anti-drug task force falsely arrested and convicted 47 residents of the Texas Panhandle town of Tulia, population 5,000. The evidence-free sting put a full fifth of Tulia’s small black community behind bars. Blakeslee follows this story of rogue cops and federal drug policies gone wrong to its semi-satisfying conclusion: the eventual overturning of the grossly ill-gotten sentences. Along the way, he shows a small community’s struggles with economic fate and demographic fact, and how internal divisions open the door to exploitation by unscrupulous outsiders. Also: Some people are still basically racist.
When someone moves to a new country and progresses through the stages of citizenship, we say that they are “naturalized.” When we “naturalize” nature, we also demand that it live by our rules. Rivers in Montana are supposed to be curvaceous, clear, and stocked with rainbow trout. It’s a cultural construction as much as a natural one; there’s a specific vista that encapsulates what Montana means to Americans.
Another nice review just out in Missoula:
Montana needs a book like this. We need to remember the past. We need to be mindful of the present. We need to say thanks to all those who strive to do the right thing. We need more journalists like Brad Tyer to keep us humble.
Missoula columnist Ednor Therriault (aka badass honky-tonker Bob Wire) has a thoughtful new review out of Opportunity, Montana, which went on sale today. Here’s an excerpt:
Opportunity, Montana is an important book—a clear-eyed examination of a picturesque, stridently environmentally-correct Montana city that flexed its political muscle to remediate the toxic nightmare at its doorstep, and accepted a back-room deal to have all that waste hauled back upstream and dumped on an area that has already been dumped on.