cover of book

Under the Western Sky: Essays on the Fiction and Music of Willy Vlautin
edited by Neil Campbell
University of Nevada Press, 2018
Paper: 978-1-943859-58-0 | eISBN: 978-1-943859-59-7
Library of Congress Classification PS3622.L38Z96 2017
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.6

This original collection of essays by experts in the field weave together the first comprehensive examination of Nevada-born Willy Vlautin’s novels and songs, as well as featuring 11 works of art that accompany his albums and books.

Brutally honest, raw, gritty, down to earth, compassionate and affecting, Willy Vlautin’s writing evokes a power in not only theme, but in methodology. Vlautin’s novels, The Motel Life, Northline, Lean on Pete and The Free (2006-2014) chart the dispossessed lives of young people struggling to survive in difficult economic times and in regions of the U.S. West and Pacific Northwest traditionally viewed as affluent and abundant. Yet as his work shows, are actually highly stratified and deprived.

Likewise, Vlauntin’s songs, penned as lead singer of the Americana band Richmond Fontaine chart a related territory of blue-collar landscapes of the American West and Northwest with a strong emphasis on narrative and affective soundscapes evocative of the similar worlds defined in his novels.

Featuring an interview with Vlautin himself, this edited collection aims to develop the first serious, critical consideration of the important novels and songs of Willy Vlautin by exploring relations between region, music, and writing through the lens of critical regionality and other interdisciplinary, cultural, and theoretical methodologies. In so doing, it will situate his work within its regional frame of the American New West, and particularly the city of Reno, Nevada and the Pacific Northwest, whilst showing how he addresses wider cultural and global issues such as economic change, immigration shifts, gender inequality, and the loss of traditional mythic identities.

The essays take different positions in relation to considerations of both novels and music, looking for links and relations across genres, always mindful of their specificity. Under the Western Sky shows how although apparently rooted in place, Vlautin’s work traces diverse lines of contemporary cultural enquiry, engaging in an effective and troubling examination of regional haunting.

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