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When unemployed writers set out to chronicle America


The first guidebook to reach print covered Idaho and was written by the cantankerous novelist Vardis Fisher. Fisher produced now-forgotten works such as “Toilers of the Hills” and “In Tragic Life” that had strong reviews but poor sales. He was in need of an income, and the FWP provided it by appointing him as its state director. There were not many high-quality, unemployed writers in Idaho, so Fisher did most of the work himself: “He bought a Nash automobile and set out to log around eight thousand miles of Idaho’s roadways, and write the tour copy for the guide, alone.” His authorial voice, Borchert writes, was “by turns sardonic and invigorated, occasionally somber, but rarely flat.”

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