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Hole in the Sky: A Memoir Paperback – June 1, 1993


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author's grandfather, William Kittredge, began in 1911 to amass what he thought would be paradise for himself and for his descendants: a cattle and farming empire of more than 15,000 acres in the Warner Valley of southeastern Oregon. He reshaped the land and his family to fit the dream. But within the span of three generations, this willed Garden of Eden, which once had drawn the powerful and famous, fell into disarray. The author recounts the destruction not only of the land but of his family and, especially, himself--his flights into alcohol and extramarital affairs. Kittredge ( Owning It All ) parlays vivid prose and storytelling talent to produce a powerful indictment of materialism and its capacity to undermine the spirit and dissolve human connections with the universe.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Kittredge's ( Owning It All , LJ 8/87) breathless and elliptical memoir, set largely in the cattle country of southern Oregon, illuminates a unique struggle of the American West between fealty toward land and the need for new adventure. When in the 1960s Kittredge reached age 35, he and his siblings sold the vast ranch that had belonged to the family for 80 years. His marriage ending, his life a cloud of booze, Kittredge found salvation in the written word. A good part of that word is devoted here to respectful remembrances of the cowboys and drunks who populated the ranch and to the ancestors who left their marks on Kittredge. The rest is devoted to the sparsely populated Great Basin itself. The Great Basin is rarely the subject of Western writing which makes Kittredge's book more welcome. Enjoyable reading.
- Tim Zindel, Sacramento
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st edition (June 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679740066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679740063
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #397,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on June 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
Kittredge's excellent, thoughtful, and well-written book is a memoir of growing up on a ranch in southeastern Oregon. This is arid country where spring runoff from the mountains gathers in lakes and swamps used for millennia as a stopover by migrating waterbirds. Enter the enterprising Kittredge family, and during the 20th century thousands of acres here were transformed into a vast irrigated ranch, its chief output evolving from cattle to grain to hay to feed milling and feedlots. More to the point, they built an agricultural empire and became wealthy.
The author, born into this world in the 1930s, looks back from the vantage point of 1992, long after leaving the ranch behind and settling in Montana. What he sees is the wreckage of three generations blighted by ambition, greed, arrogance, and no small amount of alcohol. Kittredge talks often about how personal stories illuminate and ground people's lives, yet he and so many of the people around him are directionless and unmoored. His book is a story in which words like "reckless," "hapless," and "heedless" are often used to describe actions.
It is a painful book because there is so much heartache in it, so much confusion, shame, isolation, and fear. There are betrayals, infidelities, friendships and marriages ended, deaths from accidents and mishaps. In all of it, from earliest memories to those of a man on the verge of middle-age, the author describes a deep uncertainty about his own worth and his purpose in life. For many years, it seems to be only the grueling hard work of the ranch, which he only half understands, that keeps him distracted from a sense that nothing is real. (Steady consumption of alcohol and extramarital sex also figure into the mix.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book to gain a better understanding of my cowboy neighbors in Eastern Oregon, but I gained so much more. Anyone with a passion for southeastern Oregon will love this book. At times, Kittredge's descriptions of the land are poetic. I found myself driving through Kittredge's Oregon recently, and so much of what he wrote kept leaping to the forefront of my consciousness, stimulating my own fresh perspective of this open country and those who call it home.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By T. M. Johnson on May 31, 2010
Format: Paperback
One should be cautious when critiquing a memoir, especially one as skillfully written as William Kittredge's "A Hole in the Sky: A Memoir." After all, one's life experiences, memories, and musings are unique, therefore sacrosanct. How the memorist wishes to portray them is--and should be--his prerogative. So in that respect, I'm willing to give Kittredge's memoir some leeway. The author describes the landscape of his youth, the deserts, playas, and marshlands of Southeastern Oregon, with love and poignancy. He does the same with the landscape of relationships, the ranch hands who shuffle in and out of his young life, how he learns from and is touched by these men. The chapters and passages he devotes to these physical and interpersonal landscapes express feeling and nostalgia: a love of place; a love of the ranching life; a respect for manliness. But there is another landscape Kittredge shares in his memoir: an emotional landscape, the landscape of introspection. A memoir is certainly the place to chronicle the examined life, but too much self-examination, especially when it borders on masochism, was first bothersome and then tedious to this reader. In the latter chapters of "A Hole in the Sky" Kittredge's self-deprecation was to me excessive. Asking the reader to slog through such a tortured landscape was bad enough, but the fact the memorist not only dwelled on and seemed to enjoy this personal castigation abused not only himself: it bordered on near abuse to the reader, as well. One's life is what it is, was what it was. I see no need to present it with microscopic, self-denigrating scrutiny.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Remington on August 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
William Kittredge, like Richard Brautigan, Tom McGuane and William Stafford, uses the modern fall of the Western Myth as a backdrop for creating the personal memoir. In Hole In The Sky, Kittredge mangages to capture the sad fallacy that underscores western machismo with often heartbreaking results. Kittredge pulls off the near impossible in this modern age of weepy pseudo therepy memoir writing: he reveals inner failings without sounding tiresome, whiny or trivial. He writes in a prose style that is devoid of any pretensious posings or trappings. He also captures a true sense of time and space. As my fellow reviewer has said, this book is a must read for anyone about to venture into Eastern Oregon (where I am from) or the rodeo backwater towns of the west. Well worth a look.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Samantha Bean on October 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
William Kittridge's autobiography, A HOLE IN THE SKY begins in the wilderness around the foothills of southeastern Oregon and retells, in lucid detail, the events of his childhood leading up to his time in the Air Force, to his many marriages, to his emergence as a writer who writes in a prophetic voice with a great sense of prose.
Looking back to his childhood years, Kittridge aims to return to that innocent age and allow the reader to engage in his coming of age...to the point where your feet are engulfed in the wet grass of early morning dew, and you imagine the grandeur of taking care of 8,000 acres of open territory.
In the end, he claims that: "We are a part of what is sacred. That is our main defense against craziness, our solace, the source of our best policies, and our only chance at paradise." Thus, we are open to the realities that life, growing up on the western plains, was not an American historical fairy tale, but rather a true test of ones self-worth and distinction.
A wonderful read...I highly recommend!
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