Shambhala / Roost Books (distributed by Penguin Random House), 2018. ISBN 9781611804614 (paperback).
This book of humorous creative nonfiction contains 35 essays (of approximately 2,000-words each), each a small story about the wildlife, landscape, and strange human characters in the remote high desert. By turns moving and funny, these essays deeply engage a home landscape, exploring the inspiring beauty and often the downright weirdness of living in a place that is both exhilarating and intimidating. The stories included here range from flash floods to wildfire, from rodeos to the Muppets, from harvester ants to hens to hedgehogs, from stirring septic tanks to trapping leprechauns, and include a practical lesson on western American profanity and a natural and cultural history of flatulence.
Praise for How to Cuss in Western:
Not long ago, Mike Branch was a respected academic, one of the founders of ecocriticism, before he shed that old skin and emerged anew as a kind of Thoreau in Groucho glasses. That emergence has been a delight for readers, who find both laughter and wisdom in the words of this Western ranter, perched high in his desert home in Nevada, up on Ranting Hill, where he worships a divine troika of family, humor, and place. In his always-engaging essays, we encounter sage and pronghorn, juniper and sandstone, but also garden gnomes, the art of wheel waving, casual strolls to California, Muppets, and a deep meditation on flatulence. A book that could proudly sit on any Western shelf next to Austin’s or Abbey’s.” –David Gessner, author of All the Wild that Remains
Michael actually reminds me a bit of Ed Abbey . . . . Neither one of the two seem to have a shred of pretentiousness about them and their humor is not contrived; it is earned from the school of hard knocks and human experience, which is to say it rises from the organic and appeals because it is grounded in the imagery of the natural world. Both men are the epitome of being comfortable in their own skins with not one dammed thing to flaunt or prove, and in that light both are easy to like, listen to and believe, and laughter comes easily through that association and comfort level.” –David Lee, Pulitzer Prize-nominated former Poet Laureate of Utah
It’s not easy to live in the high desert of the American West—it requires an eye for the sparest sort of natural beauty, a robust sense of humor that can help one weather the inevitable indignities and hardships that accompany life in such a landscape, and, yes, even a special class of regionally inflected swear words. Michael P. Branch once again offers his readers a companionable journey into the remote places he loves so we might share in the unique joy and humor he finds there.” –S. M. Hulse, author of Black River
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