John Rember: Examining the American West

Join former College of Idaho professor and current writer-at-large John Rember as he reads “Reconstructing a Landscape of Hope” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, in the Sterry Hall third-floor board room. The reading examines the religious, literary and psychological roles of wilderness in the contemporary American West.

Rember also will look at Wallace Stegner's youthful description of the West as a “geography of hope” and Stegner’s late-life admission that the West was no longer a place of hope for him.

American noir fiction, Idaho's tourist industry, ownership of public lands, the Clovis civilization, wolf reintroduction, fly-fishing as agribusiness, and near-term human extinction also will be subjects Rember touches on during the reading.

“The tourists who float the Middle Fork of the Salmon, the horseback riders, the people with new fly rods and waders—they’re all paying big money to be in contact with sacred wilderness,” Rember said. “If they didn't care about the sacred, they could stay home and plug into the Internet, or crank up the Jacuzzi and pretend they're in white water, or hop on a merry-go-round pony.”

“So they go out and hire a guide—a human totem animal. Unfortunately, their guides are thoroughly domesticated. They’ve rafted the Middle Fork a hundred times. They’ve saddled the horses a thousand times. They know every bend in the trail, every rapid and every fishing hole. They know that hatchery rainbow aren’t real fish.

“The guides deliver a predictable experience unless clients wander off trail, or get bucked into a nest of rattlesnakes, or hit a tree at the edge of a ski run, or drown. Many clients retain attorneys for such surprises.”

The reading is open to the public and will be followed by a short Q & A session.

Rember also is a Boise Weekly columnist and the author of five books: Coyote in the Mountains, Cheerleaders from Gomorrah, Traplines, MFA in a Box, and Sudden Death, Over Time.

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another 11 Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit