Happy birthday Wallace Stegner


Yesterday, Feb. 18th, would have been Wallace Stegner’s 100th birthday (he passed away in 1993). Stegner, arguably the most iconic of Western writers and conservationists, is best known for his books “The Spectator Bird” and “Angle of Repose”. His prose has inspired generations of Westerners, including the founders of HCN

His words are a key part of our mission: "to inform and inspire people to act on behalf of the West’s land, air, water and inhabitants (and to) work to create what Wallace Stegner called ‘a society to match the scenery.’ "

Timothy Egan has a thoughtful tribute to Stegner in the New York Times:

On his 100th birthday, it’s worth remembering another lesson of his life — to choose authenticity over artifice. “If you don’t know where you are,” he said, paraphrasing the writer Wendell Berry, “you don’t know who you are.”

Happy birthday Wallace, and here’s to the geography of hope.

American publishing
Ed Quillen
Ed Quillen
Feb 20, 2009 02:46 PM
    The Egan piece in the New York Times, concerning Stegner's difficulties with the East Coast literary establishment, brings to mind something I heard from Steve Frazee more than 20 years ago.
    Steve, who died in 1992, was my neighor here in Salida, and during the 1950s and 60s, he wrote a lot of novels, some contemporary (like More Damn Tourists), but most of them Westerns (The Way Through the Mountains, The Shining Mountains, etc.). I interviewed him once for a profile for the Denver Post's book section, and we got to talking about the book-publishing industry.
    "It works like this," Steve said in his gravelly voice. "If a book takes place on one block of 38th Street in Manhattan, it is of universal import and interest. If it takes place on this half of the continent, it's a regional book at best, and of interest only to a tiny segment of readers."
Stegner's centennial
Stephen Trimble
Stephen Trimble
Feb 23, 2009 10:59 AM
Thanks for your notice of Stegner's centennial, Jodi. It's a great occasion--especially here in Salt Lake City, where the Stegner Center at the University of Utah Law School will host a stellar group of speakers at a Stegner centennial syposium on March 6/7, 2009. (there is a link to the symposium at my Stegner blog, www.stegner100.com).

As I have read through the phenomenal response to Tim Egan's column in the New York Times, I came across this observation: "this column illustrates the larger problem for the West...the complete lack of a news or popular literary magazine (e.g. the New Yorker, Atlantic, Harpers, etc.) that has a westen sensibility." You need to send this person an introductory copy of HCN!

The larger point is well-taken, however. Nearly 300 people left comments about Stegner after reading Tim Egan's piece. Here at HCN, I'm only the second--and both Ed Quillen and I are contributors to the journal!

My project as a Stegner Fellow at the Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah this year has been to create a statewide conversation about Stegner's work. What I have tried to do locally, Tim Egan's commentary and the power of the Internet have done more broadly--sparked a national conversation about Stegner with these comments! The irony, of course, is that Egan focused on the inadequate attention paid to Stegner by the East Coast elite. And then we read this amazing critical and laudatory discussion of Stegner in response, right there in the Times, generated by a new web-based national readership.

Wally Stegner would be amused by the irony, amazed by the technology, and gratified by the personal tributes.