Montana Festival of the Book kicks election blather to the curb

The festival that starts this afternoon and features 75 writers provides a short but welcome break to the nonstop election barrage. There are so many readings, workshops, panel discussions and literary-themed musical performances that there’s no way to do them justice and pay attention to politics, too. Yet another reason to love books.

I hit some highlights in this story for the Missoulian’s Entertainer. This afternoon and evening’s performances set the musical undertone for the festival, with the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis presenting the most recent of their “Wildwood Chronicles.” That’s followed by Rick Bass and Stellarondo, which has scored music to some of Bass’ short stories.

Festival organizer Kim Anderson of Humanities Montana terms the featured readers at Friday night’s gala “three wildly different writers” – Ivan Doig (“The Bartender’s Tale,” a novel set in small-town Montana in 1960), David Quammen ( “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic”) and Pam Houston (“Contents May Have Shifted,” short stories).

The New York Times lauded Quammen Tuesday in a review that called him “not just among our best science writers but among our best writers, period.” Nice timing.

The festival winds up Saturday evening on another musical note with the Montana premiere of the musical adaptation of James Welch’s “The Heartsong of Charging Elk,” by composer Wayne Horvitz.

For a full schedule, click here. Plan carefully. Get some rest. Hydrate. Then plunge in. When the festival ends Saturday night, the campaigns will still be waiting.

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