Wallace Stegner


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Biography of Wallace Stegner, the greatest contemporary author of the American West

Table of Contents

PrefaceAcknowledgmentsList of IllustrationsIntroduction: Against the Grain--A Heritage of Integrity1. The Last Homestead Frontier: A Prairie Childhood2. From Primitive to Intellectual: The Education of Wallace Stegner3. From Student to Professor: The Further Education of Wallace Stegner4. Becoming a Novelist: Write a Novel and Win a Prize5. Accomplished Writer, Harvard Teacher, and Friend to the Famous: What More Do You Need?6. Hard Work at Harvard: Climbing the Big Rock Candy Mountain7. Looking Back at the West From Cambridge8. From the Fight Against Rugged Individualism to the Fight Against Prejudice and Racism9. Back to Fiction, On to Stanford10. Abandoning the Novel and Embracing the Short Story11. From Short Story Writer to Environmentalist12. To the Barricades for the Environment13. Travel, Travel Literature, and the Search for Narrative Voice14. An All-Star Cast15. The Struggle to Locate Oneself16. Historian and "Contemporary"17. Trouble in the Sixties18. A New Life19. The Pulitzer and Beyond20. Back to Biography and Another Prizewinning Novel21. The Past That Comes Back to Haunt Us22. Crossing to Safety23. Giving All to TimeNotes and DocumentationIndex

About the Author

Jackson J. Benson is a professor of English emeritus at San Diego State University. He is the author of several books, including The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer, The Ox-Bow Man: A Biography of Walter Van Tilburg Clark, and most recently, Under the Big Sky: A Biography of A. B. Guthrie Jr. (Nebraska 2009).


"In this engrossing work, Benson offers a portrait of a resilient truth-seeker, steadfast moralist, obsessive realist, and compassionate humanist who became the standard-bearer for western regionalist writing."--Booklist

"In this engrossing work, Benson offers a portrait of a resilient truth-seeker, steadfast moralist, obsessive realist, and compassionate humanist who became the standard-bearer for western regionalist writing."--Booklist

When he was in his late 50s, Stegner (1909-1993) described himself, through a fictional character, as "a tea bag left too long in the cup," but he lived into his 80s, dying in an auto accident in 1993. In his middle years three of his finest novels, Angle of Repose, The Spectator Bird and Crossing to Safety, were yet to come. Always associated with university writing programs, notably at Stanford, his was not a career from which it is easy to mine urgent biographical narrative. Yet Benson (The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer) makes the most of Stegner's stark Saskatchewan childhood and felonious father, both of which later energized the ambitious epic Big Rock Candy Mountain (1943). Stegner's disappointment at his often tepid critical reception is a continuing motif. Asked by students what a Pulitzer Prize (which he would win in 1972) would mean to him, he scoffed: "I'd drink a better brand of bourbon." Yet he confided to a colleague that he had given up short fiction because "you can't have a major reputation on the short story." All of Stegner's considerable output, including histories, biographies and essays, evince a sensitivity for moral verities and the threatened land. Benson's admiring biography, begun with Stegner's cooperation, still reads disconcertingly in places as if his subject were alive. Still, the biography will help to solidify Stegner's place in the literature of his time. Illustrations not seen by PW. Author tour. (Nov.)

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