Ivan Doig was born in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, growing up the only child to his ranch hand father and ranch cook mother, living along the Rocky Mountain Front where much of his writing takes place. Doig knew he wanted to be a writer his junior year of high school. His ﬁrst book, “This House of Sky,” was a ﬁnalist for the National Book Award in 1979. Doig is a former ranch hand, newspaperman and magazine editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and he also holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. He lives in Seattle with his wife Carol.
My narrator in “The Whistling Season,” Paul Milliron, educator and bookman and graduate of a one-room school that he was, would have fully known the value of a community read, all the way from its linguistic beginnings. “Communitas,” the root of our usage of “community”—in Paul’s well-thumbed Latin-to-English dictionary, these several meanings of “communitas” are given: “sharing, partnership, social ties, fellowship, togetherness.” What better rewards could readers and writer alike ask for, than the common ground of literary fellowship through reading?
Regards, Ivan Doig
(from Harcourt Brace, publisher)
Question: In “The Whistling Season,” Paul and his brother decide to keep a secret from their father because doing so will deliver the right outcome. Throughout the book, Paul becomes the guardian of an increasing number of secrets. What are your feelings about individuals who withhold potentially damaging information out of a sense of personal justice? Do you sense this type of behavior was more prevalent a century ago than it is today?
A: Paul indeed starts to feel inundated with secrets, some of them of the slyly funny, schoolyard variety and some vitally serious. He is a very bright thirteen-year-old, who at one point realizes his life is about to change, that he is “less than a man but starting to be something more than a boy.” But in the case of the ultimate secret, he has to draw on instinct and innate decency to reach his decision. So I see Paul’s chosen course as one of compassion, in the name of giving his family a chance to knit itself together and to offer amnesty to someone who has made a misstep in life, but who shows every sign of having retrieved her full worth. To me, and I suppose this is reflected in Paul, there is sometimes not just one justice in a situation but rather a choice, and my hope is that Paul chose wisely.
Paul’s kind of decision possibly was more in line with his time and place—the early twentieth century and a community, rural, but full of nuance toward neighbors and family—than our screen-driven, tell-all era of e-mail, television, movies, and so on. Yet, my belief is that decent behavior is never out-of-date.
Take a look at some photos from some of this year’s many events. Read More
Each winter, the public submits suggestions for next year’s book. In January, a panel of community members reviews the suggestions, narrowing that list down to 10 titles, and then chooses two or three books to present for a public vote.
The public response to the book, the discussions, and the videoconference with author Ivan Doig were exciting for the library and we were gratified to witness so much community engagement.