MTPR

Tensions In The New West With Maxim Loskutoff

Sep 20, 2018

In the Redoubt, an isolated region of Idaho, Montana, and Eastern Oregon, the confrontation between old and new America plays out in emotional and violent skirmishes. This “true West,” as a character calls it, is “where all the Indians were dead and we white men had finally gotten around to killing ourselves.” Come West and See, by Maxim Loskutoff, unravels the mythology of the West and illustrates life in oft overlooked rural towns where men and women scramble for safety in their relationships as violence escalates around them. In twelve interconnected stories, Loskutoff’s fiction offers startling insights into America, its wounds and perpetual conflicts.

Come West And See

The following highlights are from a conversation with Maxim Loskutoff about his collection of stories, Come West and See. To hear the full conversation, click the link above or subscribe to our podcast. 

You’ve lived in California, Portland, New York, Abu Dhabi, Botswana, India—what drew you back to Montana?

All the places I’ve lived in my life I found I was still, in my work, orbiting the west. Everything I wrote ended up being about Montana and these kinds of small towns where I grew up. I realized the process of living in all these places that were so radically different from it and from each other was a process of being able to see the place I was from more clearly. After being away for about 15 years, it just felt like it was time to come home, time to re-experience it in the flesh again.

In an interview with NPR’s Ari Shapiro, you talk about the struggle with our “urge to love the land and our urge to tame it.” You grew up in Missoula, MT, I’m curious how you witnessed that struggle in particular?

I think you see it all around you here in Missoula. When I was a kid, Missoula was still very much a mill town. I remember these conflicts when I was a kid between my classmates whose fathers and mothers worked out at the paper mill and then those other kids whose parents were so furious about how the air smelled bad every day, how you’d get these inversions where you could hardly see your hand in front of your face. I think those were my earliest internalizing conflicts between this idea of using the land and using the resources of the west versus protecting them. . .

As a little kid I think you feel things so strongly. I was a kid who, anytime I saw a clear cut, felt like I died inside. How could anybody possibly do that? But then I’d meet kids at school who were like “Oh, my dad does that. That’s how we eat. You live in a wood house, right?” When you’re a little kid you’re taking in these basic, strange little contradictions in yourself and trying to figure them out. Those contradictions are still what fascinate me.

Break

The jacket of your book claims that the stories offer “radical empathy and startling insights into the wounds of American people.” What are the wounds?

That’s a big question.

Laughing

You can see them all around us. I think America, from its very beginning, has been reckoning with itself and reckoning with the fact that it was founded on incredible cruelty: genocide and mass murder, eradication of a culture, abuse of other cultures, and this incredible desire to take over and change a wild land. I think the ramifications and those scars are certainly with us today. They’re playing out in such a vivid way right now as the west is in this process of going through radical changes where so many of the economies that existed even when I was a kid, such as logging and mining, have moved to other countries or just been expended here. A lot of these small towns are either dying or changing. They’re losing what used to be their heart-blood and becoming either a tourist destination or some kind of a tech hub. You have this violent cultural anger—we’re seeing it all around us. I wrote this book as a warning, thinking this is something we’d have to face down the road. I didn’t think it would be so vivid by the time it came out. The battles over public lands which were foundational in the background of the book—they felt like they were in the background of the country when I wrote it—and they feel like they’re in the foreground now.

About the Book

In the Redoubt, an isolated region of Idaho, Montana, and Eastern Oregon, the confrontation between old and new America plays out in emotional and violent skirmishes. This “true West,” as a character calls it, is “where all the Indians were dead and we white men had finally gotten around to killing ourselves.” Come West and See, by Maxim Loskutoff, unravels the mythology of the West and illustrates life in oft overlooked rural towns where men and women scramble for safety in their relationships as violence escalates around them. In twelve interconnected stories, Loskutoff’s fiction offers startling insights into America, its wounds and perpetual conflicts.

The stories in Come West and See depict people living on the fringe. Loskutoff’s characters are in transition from one way of life to another, desperately seeking an identity. He writes about love, heartbreak, and being an outsider with such empathy and perceptiveness that it feels revelatory.

As Loskutoff’s characters struggle with their anger and loss, they recreate themselves and their homeland—offering a sweeping new vision of the West: a place of torn landscapes, torn dreams, and staggering beauty. Come West and See is a profound debut collection from a talented new voice in literary fiction.

Maxim Loskutoff
Credit Vanessa Compton

About the Author

A graduate of New York University’s MFA program, Maxim Loskutoff has been honored with the Nelson Algren Literary Award, a Global Writing Fellowship in Abu Dhabi, and the M Literary Fellowship in Bangalore. He has worked as a carpenter, field organizer, and writing teacher, among many other things. He lives in western Montana. For more information, visit maximtloskutoff.com.