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Friday, September 13 • 1:00pm - 2:00pm
From the Author's Pen: A 16-year Correspondence with A. B. Guthrie Jr.

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On March 24, 1975, a high school English teacher in upstate New York by the name of Robert Cubbins penned a simple letter to A. B. Guthrie Jr. requesting a signed copy of his favorite novel, "The Big Sky." Guthrie agreed, asking in return only that Cubbins tie him a couple fishing flies -- Royal Coachmen, to be exact, on a size 8 hook. This early exchange was tinged with humor, and set the stage for a 16-year correspondence and a friendship that lasted to the very day of Guthrie's death on April 26, 1991. They swapped jokes, shared fishing stories and scribbled cartoons. Cubbins even furnished Guthrie's family with an English Setter named for the tragic hero of "The Big Sky," Boone.

As Guthrie's grandson, Alex Sakariassen took on the responsibility this winter of cataloging and preserving both sides of this years-long exchange. What he found in those letters was a window into the man behind so many iconic Western novels, who wrote to Cubbins from the same typewriter that spawned many of his later literary works. Cubbins proved to be a cheerleader of sorts for Guthrie, and keeping up with his pen pal in New York gave my grandfather a chance to warm both fingers and mind before diving into his latest chapters. My family feels a panel focused on these letters might afford Montana Book Festival attendees a rare glimpse into the personality of one of this state's most celebrated authors. A panel of this sort also raises an interesting question: As communication continues to swing wildly into the digital age, what can we do to preserve the unique art of letter writing?

Donna McRae, the head of the archives at the Mansfield Library, will speak both to the value of such documents as primary source material and to the proper ways to preserve them.


Alex Sakariassen

Born in Bismarck, North Dakota, Alex Sakariassen grew up frequenting the still waters of central Minnesota and the hardscrabble majesty of Montana's Rocky Mountain Front. He chased the trout and snow west to Missoula, Mont., in 2004. After earning a bachelor's degree in journalism... Read More →

Friday September 13, 2019 1:00pm - 2:00pm MDT
Residence Inn by Marriott Missoula Downtown

Attendees (3)