April 23, 2015
Everyone in Missoula is talking about Missoula
by Taylor Sperry
This week, Jon Krakauer’s highly-anticipated book Missoula (the bestselling author’s first since his swift exposé of Greg Mortenson in 2011), went on sale with a staggering initial print run of 500,000 copies–suggesting a giddy, borderline reckless degree of confidence on the part of Krakauer’s publisher, Doubleday.
But not everyone is excited for Missoula to hit stores–namely, people who live in Missoula.
The book is an exhaustively researched investigation into the rash of sexual assaults that have plagued the University of Montana’s campus in recent years and–consequently, inevitably–also an indictment of the police officers, school officials, and prosecutors who failed to handle sex crimes effectively (over, and over, and over again).
It’s meant to bring attention to what is obviously a horrific nationwide epidemic, but Missoula residents are wary of their town’s good name being dragged through the mud. Last month, the local prosecutor sent Doubleday a letter asking that they delay the book’s publication (A-for-effort, lady); a list of “12 Reasons to Love Missoula Right Now” made the cover of this week’s Missoula Independent; and posters of the book jacket doctored to read “Our Missoula” are presently on sale for $25.
A local chaplain told the New York Times that “her ‘back went up’ when she first saw the title. She said she wanted a vigorous discussion about dark currents of assault and entitlement in this picturesque mountain town, but she wondered, why that title? Rape, she said, is part of every town’s story . . . ‘Missoula is not the issue.’”
True, but it’s difficult to imagine this book being called anything other than Missoula (grand, specific, utterly memorable)–except, I guess, “A Rape on Campus,” but that’s already been taken.
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.