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Mountain City Paperback – June 4, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0865476165 ISBN-10: 0865476160 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 204 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; 1st edition (June 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865476160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865476165
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #868,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tucked away in the northern reaches of Nevada, the small boom-and-bust mining town of Mountain City may seem like a ghostly speck on a map, but for Martin it is the quickened heart of the universe. In this gorgeously written, meticulously observed memoir, he probes the lingering old age of the town he romped in as a child and continues to visit. The center of the story, and of the town, is Tremewan's, the general store run by Martin's extended family, which serves the 30-odd residents of Mountain City and others from the outlying areas. Martin stocks shelves, bags groceries and absorbs the history of the town's bust, along with the news and jokes of the people who eke out a living in a place they continue to love. Most of the time, Martin's hometown is warm and homey, but it becomes less agreeable as the winter drags on and folks tire of the routine and limited company. A keen and witty observer, Martin captures the local characters with humor and nuance, never averting his eyes from the small flaws that make this community real. People bicker, the town widows form a tight-knit clique and his Basque uncle Mel, usually the effervescent town wag, hits the Black Velvet one hour before close every night, which sometimes turns him downright mean. Throughout, Martin shows how frailty is woven into the fabric of relations; he maintains an immediacy that highlights the humanity of his subjects and frames the steady press of time that is forcing an era of the American West deep into memory. Agent, Doug Stewart and Curtis Brown Ltd. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This small book is more than memoir or simply a tale about sense of place in a small northern Nevada town. It is the beautifully rendered story of a dying Western community. In this, his first book , Martin, who now lives in Seattle, portrays life in remote Mountain City, 84 mile from Elko. He centers his telling around Tremewan's store, where his Basque uncle Mel and aunt Lou Basanez, grandma and Gramps Tremewan, and cousin Mitch sell groceries to the town's 33 residents, area miners and ranchers, and the Indians from the nearby Duck Valley Reservation. And a good story it is. He weaves the history of this boomtown with its dwindling present, tells an intelligent and compelling story within a story, and describes the relationships between the people of Mountain City with precision and care. Of his uncle Mel, whose elaborate and wry humor entertains the town, his Martin writes, "He has a gift, an artist's gift, and it has to do with story telling, with creating a certain kind of atmosphere." This can also be said for Mel's nephew, Martin. Highly recommended for all libraries.
Sue Samson, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

He lets us see the salient details, without judgment, without pity.
Ken Lamberton
This is a marvelous book not only in the way it is written but also in the story it tells.
Charles M. Nobles
Good for readers looking for a gentle book and those interested in armchair travelling.
Joanna Hazelden

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Charles M. Nobles VINE VOICE on October 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In the world of book publishing it seems that 2000 is the year of the memoir. There are literally hundreds of so-called memoirs being rushed to press. Most are a thinly veiled effort to cash in on the latest touchy-feely fad and will soon be piled on the growing remainder pile. A few, a precious few, are of an award-winning caliber and worth the reader's time. This is such a book. Mountain City is the story of a rural mining town in Nevada that has experienced the bust-and-boom times so typical of much of the West. It's population, once numbered in the thousands, now totals thirty-three. The town has experienced the off-told western tale of fame and fortune, good jobs and a promising future, and then the seemingly inevitable exploitation of the land and people and ultimate abandonment by those who promised the elusive pot of gold. Attrition follows soon after and the cycle begins again with every promising rumor or spoken hope by those that remain. It is a story as old as the West itself. So, what makes this book so special? Gregory Martin, unlike so many that grew up in the West, never really left Mountain City. Oh, to be sure he moved away and established a career away from this northern Nevada town that is 84 miles away from anything. However, he kept returning time and again to visit his grandparents and work in his uncle's general store. His memoir of not only the history of the town but its inhabitants is nothing short of wonderful. He has succeeded in telling the story of these descendants of Basque (Bascos) shepherds and Cornish Tin Miners; Native American Indians; and assorted others that at once introduces the reader to a small slice of contemporary western life and the history of much of the West as a whole. The reader will meet many of the 33 permanent residents.Read more ›
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ken Lamberton on May 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Thomas McGuane says that "...all literature is about loss, or the recognition of loss..." and Gregory Martin's debute memoir certainly shows this to be true.
In Mountain City, Martin writes poignantly about a small town and a huge loss, about a place in rural northeastern Nevada, its people and their way of life--all leaning toward extinction. "Thirty-three people live in Mountain City," he says. "I come and go, but when I'm here that makes thirty-four." The community of ranchers, Native Americans, widows, and Martin's relatives, who are descendants of the original Basque settlers of the area, is already mostly abandoned to the past. There are no young families; one one, in fact, under forty.
"I sweep the floors," Martin writes, providing us with his intimate perspective as he helps out at his Uncle Mel's store. Martin is always in the background, always observing. He lets us see the salient details, without judgment, without pity. From the hub of Tremewan's general store, an anachronism not unlike the town itself, he shows us the slow erosion: a circle of widows who won't allow any other woman to join them until her husband is dead; a grandfather who no longer recognizes life-long friends due to his failing eyesight; an Owyhee Indian who lives from one government check to the next and on many bottles of wine in between.
By the end of the book there are two fewer people in Mountain City. But by then, we've come to see all of them as survivors. We admire them for their fierce tenacity, and we appreciate that Martin has shared their spirit with us.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ron Franscell, Author of 'The Darkest Night' on June 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Most of the interior West is a space to be crossed, an unforgiving swath of rugged mountains and empty plains on the way to somewhere else. The final destination isn't always geographical, but is often a state of mind, of self-worth or of sheer will. And all along the way are places where folks have stopped to catch their breath or gather their wits before moving on to whatever waits at the end of the line.
Such is the place explained in "Mountain City."
On the first page of Gregory Martin's atmospheric memoir, only 33 people still live in Mountain City, just a ragged shred of civilization in remote northeastern Nevada, like a scrap of old newspaper stubbornly clinging to a sagebrush. The town's mining heydays -- and there are a few -- are the stuff of both memories and dreams, "a Western archetype for hope and failed hope and failure":
Less spiritual than "Dakota" by Kathleen Norris and more desolate than "The Meadow" by James Galvin, "Mountain City" celebrates the alternate Western seasons of promise and pessimism, arrival and abandonment. Hardened like the place he sketches against the vagaries of life, Martin writes sensitively without being maudlin, as if pity were something he discovered late in life.
He finds beauty in the abandoned shacks of Mountain City, courage in the elderly people who stay in Mountain City and trust the cycle of prosperity to come 'round one more time. And he sees wisdom in the temporary and mobile, like the trailers that come and go with the capricious fortunes of time and place:
Mountain City, the town, is unlikely to survive our lifetime, but this book preserves it (and other places like it) forever in the collective conscience, like a road sign pointing the way to a place and a state of mind that no longer exist.
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