Welcome to the next installment of the Roundhouse Reading Series, generously funded by Union County Cultural Coalition, Cook Memorial Library, Libraries of Eastern Oregon, and local donors, such as yourselves. Thank you for making this possible! According to our usual plan, we’ll have an open mic following Scott Elliott’s reading. I hope you’ve signed up!
Just as a reminder, May’s Third Wednesday reading will feature Rob Schlegel of Walla Walla reading from his new poetry collection, January Machine (Four Way Books, 2014).
This week! Scott Elliott is one of two Pacific Northwest writers visiting La Grande whose work addresses environmental issues, and it has been stimulating to read their works side by side. Jennifer Boyden will read at Ars Poetica tomorrow night at 7:30 in Pierce Library on the EOU campus.
Tonight! The Roundhouse Reading Series is pleased to host Scott Elliott, whose novel Temple Grove (University of Washington Press, 2013) I’m currently reading.
Scott is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Whitman College in Walla Walla and has previously published Coiled in the Heart (Bluehen/Penguin Putnam, 2003), selected by Booksense 76 and One-Book-One-Community, and a collection of short stories, Return Arrangements, which was named a finalist in the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and Mary McCarthy Prize competitions. He was born in Kentucky and grew up there and in Alaska and on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. He earned a BA from Vanderbilt, an MFA from Columbia, and a PhD from the University of Houston.
Scott’s most recent novel, Temple Grove, takes place on the Olympic Peninsula and features three main characters. Trace, a native Makah woman, works at an aquarium and is the mother of Paul and wife of Tom, Paul’s stepfather. In the present time of the novel, Paul is 18 and has spent his life hiking and camping in the Olympic Forest. The third character is Bill Newton, Paul’s biological father, a logger from a family of loggers, who returns to the Olympic Peninsula after years in Alaska. The plot is spurred by a chance meeting between Trace and Bill and also by Paul’s decision to become an ecoterrorist, damaging logging equipment and spiking the trees of the Temple Grove in order to protect them.
Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men who also did a reading in La Grande recently, notes that “Elliott writes from that place where the old myths and the new stories collide. In Temple Grove, he reminds us of what it means to be lost to everyone and everything we have ever loved...and to be found again. It is a story of longing, cruelty, forgiveness, and redemption, shot through with intimate descriptions of a land on the cusp of ruin that will break your heart with their beauty."
I am enjoying reading Temple Grove and wish to praise the depiction of the Pacific Northwest. I feel as if I have walked in the Olympic Forest, although I have not. The forestry issues remind me of my years spent in Humboldt County, CA, where loggers and environmentalists still vie for trees as a resource and ecosystems as a legacy. I am also enjoying the depiction of the inner lives of the main characters, particularly the complexity of their motivations and the uncertainty with which they make decisions, which feels true to my own experience. At the midpoint of the novel, the storytelling has hooked me; I have passed “the point of no return” and am having trouble putting the book down to do my real work. The last commendation I wish to make regards the imagery. I especially like the image of breaching, as in whales breaching, which seems a metaphor for all the ways in which the characters survive: they find hope in surfacing and taking the next breath.
Without further ado, please welcome Scott Elliott!
Book Cover Temple Grove. "Biography." Scott Elliott. n.d. Web. 16 April 2014. <http://www.scottelliott.net/index.htm>.
Elliott, Scott. Temple Grove. Seattle: U of Washington P, 2013. Print.