Local author receives Montana humanities award

Jeffrey Durham — Yellowstone Newspapers
Friday, February 8, 2019
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Enterprise photo by Justin Post

This photo shows Thomas McGuane at his house on the West Boulder in October 2013. The author received a Governor’s Humanities Award in Helena on Thursday.

McLeod author Thomas McGuane was honored Thursday in Helena with a Governor’s Humanities Award. With his body of work over the years, it is not surprising.

McGuane was one of five people to receive the humanities Montana honor.

They come from different backgrounds, but all have in common scholarship, exceptional writing and a commitment to their communities, according to an awards news release.

Also receiving the honor were Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs of Helena, Ellen Crain of Butte, Tami Haaland of Billings and Elizabeth McNamer of Billings.

McGuane has written 15 books, including novels and short stories. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine and other publications. His work has inspired movies.

He has a long relationship with Montana and Wyoming, visiting the area as a teenager and moving to McLeod about 30 years ago. He said he still lives in the area about 10 months of the year. He was born in Michigan to parents who moved from Massachusetts and he moved back and forth between those states while growing up.

“It is nice to be recognized, along with other people and longtime friends from the arts community,” McGuane said Tuesday.

He was an American Academy of Arts and Letters book award finalist for his book “Ninety-two in the Shade,” his third novel. His second novel, “The Bushwhacked Piano,” won the Rosenthal Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. An avid angler, McGuane’s book on fishing was published in six languages. He has also written numerous non-fiction works and essays touching on such diverse subjects as horses, sports and fly fishing, as well as penning five screenplays.

“I have no idea how I was nominated,” he said, adding, however, that he was pleased to be included for the honor.

The news release said, “Mr. McGuane’s body of work stands at the apex of Montana writers past and present.

His ability to articulate comic, tragic, irrational life in Montana towns like the one I grew up in (Harlowton) causes me to often wonder, ‘How’d he figure that out? It’s like he was there, only he wrote about it and described it better than I saw it.’ ”

McGuane has four children and five grandchildren, all of whom live in Montana.

Ambrose Tubbs is the daughter of famed author Stephen Ambrose. A historian, she guides trips on the Missouri and Columbia rivers. Crain is director of the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives.

Haaland is a professor and chair of English at Montana State University in Billings and serves on the board of the Big Sky Writing Workshops.

McNamer is a professor of religious thought at Rocky Mountain College.

She has hosted and presented radio program on poetry, drama, Dickens and Shakespeare, among other achievements.