Not fade away

 

Monument Road:A Novel
Charlie Quimby
365 pages, softcover:
$16.95.
Torrey House Press, 2013.

Rancher Leonard Self is the type of elderly man who keeps "his shades drawn, his talk necessary, his actions to the problem at hand." In the wake of his wife Inetta's death, he's been winnowing his ranch goods, his farmhouse, his life itself, succumbing to a darkening that "was not pain but bone-deep numbness. Not nightmares but short dreamless sleep and long wakefulness. Not chaos but an empty, unbudging sameness. …" On the anniversary of Inetta's passing, he plans to scatter her ashes off a cliff – and leap to his own death.

Len, the protagonist of Charlie Quimby's Monument Road, is a thoroughgoing old codger who doesn't know how to live without his wife or deal with the changes in his Western town. He doesn't know what to make of the tattooed waitresses slinging pizza to cheerful mountain bikers. He still buys his gas with cash, mends his clothing and makes do.

The beginning of the book reads more like a series of short stories than a novel, and it isn't until much later that the separate plot threads start tangling, some naturally, others in a more contrived manner. Monument Road may be based in Colorado, but Quimby, a Western blogger, is really writing about the modern Western experience, about the changing rural landscape and the troubled foster kids, eager real estate agents, taciturn ranch hands, quilt-makers, alcoholics, cancer victims, dramatic teens, religious zealots and snow-stranded horses that inhabit it. Few of his characters escape. Many flounder; some perish.

In Quimby's world, it seems everyone is in danger of falling, either literally, as from cliffs, or figuratively, as into darkness. No one is allowed to burn too brightly. Those who send off sparks, who spread their wings, fall especially hard.  The lucky ones get a second chance, usually years later, but even those second chances, like much of the novel itself, are subtle. Many of the most likable characters die, others wander off the page. People survive, but it's hard to say many of them really live within the limits of their current environment.

Quimby's prose fits his subjects perfectly. It's clean, well-made and largely utilitarian, though the ranchland poetics flash now and again, surprising both his characters and readers. A kid learning to smoke reclines on a rock and lets "his heartbeat slow as the sky turn(s) from the daytime's enameled blue bowl into a deep black broth filled with fairy dust." This is a book of confessions and connections, fear, forgiveness and, ultimately, the stirrings of redemption. It suggests that it's far better to try to adapt than just fade into black.

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Seeking passionate full-time Executive to lead the oldest non-profit organization in Idaho. Must have knowledge of environmental issues, excellent organizational, verbal presentation and written skills,...
  • COLORADO PROGRAM MANAGER
    The National Parks Conservation Association, the leading non-profit conservation organization protecting Americas national parks, seeks a Program Manager for its Colorado Field Office located in...
  • CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Carbondale based public lands advocate, Wilderness Workshop, seeks a Conservation Director to help direct and shape the future of public land conservation on the West...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR WATER PLANNING WITH WRA'S HEALTHY RIVERS PROGRAM
    Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED BIGHORN RIVER BASIN PROJECT MANAGER
    The Bighorn River Basin Project Manager identifies and implements projects to improve streamflows, restore stream and riparian habitat, improve fish passage and rehabilitate or replace...
  • NON-PROFIT OPERATIONS MANAGER
    One of the most renowned community-based collaboratives in the country seeks full-time Operations Manager to oversee administrative, financial, fund development, and board development duties. BS/BA...
  • RUSTIC HORSE PROPERTY
    in NM. 23 acres, off the grid, rustic cabin, organic gardens, fruit trees, fenced, call 505-204-8432 evenings.
  • DIRECTOR OF VISITOR SERVICES & BOOKSTORE OPERATIONS
    The San Juan Mountains Association in Durango, CO is seeking a Director of Visitor Services & Bookstore Operations to lead our visitor information program &...
  • SOLAR POWERED HOME NEAR CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK
    1800 sf home on 4.12 acres surrounded by Natl Forest and recreational opportunities in a beautiful area (Happy Valley) between Torrey and Boulder. [email protected], www.bouldermoutainreality/properties/grover/off-the-grid-in-happy-valley,...
  • 40 ACRE ORGANIC FARM
    potential fruit/hay with house, Hotchkiss, CO, Scott Ellis, 970-420-0472, [email protected]
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 25-year legacy of success...
  • LAND CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Manage, develop and implement all stewardship and land management plans and activities on both private and public lands. Guide and direct comprehensive planning efforts, provide...
  • INTERNET-BASED BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home ... this is the one. 928-380-6570, www.testshop.com. More info at https://bit.ly/2Kgi340.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • TRIPLEX .8 ACRE KANAB, UT
    Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...
  • FORGE & FAB SHOP
    with home on one beautiful acre in Pocatello, ID. Blackrock Forge - retiring after 43 years! Fully equipped 5,500 sf shop including office, gallery and...
  • SMALL FARM AT THE BASE OF MOUNT SHASTA
    Certified organic fruit/berry/veggie/flower farm. Home, barns, garage, separate apt, more. Just under 2 ac, edge of town. Famously pure air and water. Skiing, mountaineering, bike,...
  • FOREST STEWARDSHIP PROJECT DIRECTOR
    Become a force for nature and a healthy planet by joining the Arizona Chapter as Forest Stewardship Project Director. You will play a key role...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT FLY ROD CASES
    4 standard or custom lengths. Rugged protection for backpacking. Affordable pricing.
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    will develop and execute Wild Utah Projects fundraising plan. Call, email or check full description of job online for more details: