A Ride Into the Sunset

At the age of 83, Wallace Stegner is the éminence grise of Western American literature, a man responsible for shaping the writing not only of the region but also that of points eastward, thanks to the scores of graduates from the Stanford writing program that bears his name. Stegner's work, regrettably, sells far less than that of lesser transplants like, say, Gretel Ehrlich or Bret Easton Ellis. Regrettably, I say, because his books are exemplary, whether novels like Angle of Repose, biographies like The Uneasy Chair and Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, or historical studies like Mormon Country. Regrettably, too, because Stegner—the American writer most deserving of the Nobel Prize in Literature—still has much to tell us.

He reiterates some of the themes of his life's work in Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs, collecting essays on a range of subjects. Among the most successful are those that open the book, memoirs of Stegner's long tenure as a Westerner. In them, he writes affectingly of his parents; his father, a speculator who dragged his family from one dusty town to another in search of easy riches and "died broke and friendless in a fleabag hotel, having in his lifetime done more human and environmental damage than he could have repaired in a second lifetime," his mother prematurely aged by a rootless life marked by one...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here