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 An uneven collection of tributes to Wallace Stegner-- meticulous novelist, historian, chronicler of the American West, wilderness advocate--edited by his son, Page (Outposts of Eden, 1989, etc.), and wife, Mary. Stegner's writings have appealed to a wide audience, garnering O. Henry and Pulitzer and National Book awards (he accepted), and the National Medal for the Arts from the NEA (he declined, believing the NEA had been politicized by the Reagan administration). Edward Abbey, never one to lavish praise, once declared Stegner ``the only living American worthy of the Nobel.'' And when Stegner died from injuries sustained in an auto accident, at 83, the outpouring of grief was a measure of the man. Gathered here are remembrances written hard on the occasion of his death, celebrating his novels full of natural light, his years as a teacher, his gentle patriarchal presence at Breadloaf, his superlative ``Wilderness Letter'' (wherein wilderness is the geography of hope). A few leaden items in this volume simply outline their subject's passage (some editorial pruning was in order, as well: Readers are informed all too often that Stegner was born in Iowa in 1909), including T.H. Watkin's indulgent, spuriously intimate ``Letter to Mary.'' The anecdotal encounters shine: After a slow drive with Stegner through a Utah landscape, Terry Tempest Williams says, ``Thank you so much for coming.'' ``Thank you for staying,'' he returns. John Daniels, then a self-conscious poet living in a cabin on Stegner's property, hears on one of his strolls ``a rainlike patter'' coming from the Stegner porch, only to find Stegner urinating over the rail of his deck. ``Welcome to the country,'' he said with a grin. ``We're not very formal.'' More than a few of the uninitiated, and doubtless the old guard as well, will be reaching for one of Stegner's 30-odd books after reading these collected appreciations.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1996
ISBN: 0-87156-883-7
Page count: 160pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996