Bethany MaileDec 30, 2020
Anything Will Be Easy After This
A Western Identity Crisis
American Lives 2020
There is something quintessentially American about the idea of the west. Though the time of western expansion has long since passed, stories about cowboys on horses and pioneers panning for gold resonate with us to this day, living on in our books, our movies, and our in cultural imaginations. Through these stories, the west has come to represent values like stoicism, self-reliance, and rugged individualism. For many who call it home, the west also represents a heritage, a tradition, and a way of life. But how many of these collective conceptions of the west are actually true?
In her stunning debut essay collection, Anything Will Be Easy After This: A Western Identity Crisis (University of Nebraska Press, 2020), author Bethany Maile reaches into the depths of her childhood on the prairies of Eagle, Idaho to determine where the many myths about the American west begin and end. To help answer these questions, Maile goes on expeditions to an Idaho rodeo pageant, a Lady Antebellum concert, a livestock auction house, a gun range, and more. All the while, Maile attempts to reconcile her western sense of self, with what she knows to be true: that when we tell ourselves the same stories over and over again, without evolution, a piece of them—and of us—begins to die.
Today on New Books in Literature, please join us as we sit down with Bethany Maile to learn more about Anything Will Be Easy After This: A Western Identity Crisis, available now from the University of Nebraska Press (2020).
Zoë Bossiere is a doctoral candidate at Ohio University, where she studies and teaches creative writing and rhetoric & composition. She is the managing editor of Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction, and the co-editor of its anthology, The Best of Brevity (Rose Metal Press, 2020).