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Wallace Stegner was the premier chronicler of the twentieth-century western American experience, and his novels, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Angle of Repose and the National Book Award–winning The Spectator Bird, brought the life and landscapes of the West to national and international attention. Now, in this illuminating biography, Philip L. Fradkin goes beyond Stegner’s i Wallace Stegner was the premier chronicler of the twentieth-century western American experience, and his novels, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Angle of Repose and the National Book Award–winning The Spectator Bird, brought the life and landscapes of the West to national and international attention. Now, in this illuminating biography, Philip L. Fradkin goes beyond Stegner’s iconic literary status to give us, as well, the influential teacher and visionary conservationist, the man for whom the preservation and integrity of place was as important as his ability to render its qualities and character in his brilliantly crafted fiction and nonfiction. From his birth in 1909 until his death in 1993, Stegner witnessed nearly a century of change in the land that he loved and fought so hard to preserve. We learn of his hardscrabble youth on the Canadian frontier and in Utah, and of his painful relationship with his father, a bootlegger and gambler. We follow his intellectual awakening as a young man and his years as a Depression-era graduate student at the University of Iowa, during its earliest days as a literary center. We watch as he finds his home, with his wife, Mary, in the foothills above Palo Alto, which provided him with a long-awaited sense of belonging and a refuge in which he would write his most treasured works. And here are his years as the legendary founder of the Stanford Creative Writing Program, where his students included Ken Kesey, Edward Abbey, Robert Stone, and Wendell Berry. But the changes wrought by developers and industrialists were too much for Stegner, and he tirelessly fought the transformation of his Garden of Eden into Silicon Valley. His writings on the importance of establishing national parks and wilderness areas—not only for the preservation of untouched landscape but also for the enrichment of the human spirit—played a key role in the passage of historic legislation and comprise some of the most beautiful words ever written about the natural world. Here, too, is the story—told in full for the first time—of the accusations of plagiarism that followed the publication of Angle of Repose, and of the shadow they have cast on his greatest work. Rich in personal and literary detail, and in the sensual description of the country that shaped his work and his life—this is the definitive account of one of the most acclaimed and admired writers, teachers, and conservationists of our time.


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Wallace Stegner was the premier chronicler of the twentieth-century western American experience, and his novels, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Angle of Repose and the National Book Award–winning The Spectator Bird, brought the life and landscapes of the West to national and international attention. Now, in this illuminating biography, Philip L. Fradkin goes beyond Stegner’s i Wallace Stegner was the premier chronicler of the twentieth-century western American experience, and his novels, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Angle of Repose and the National Book Award–winning The Spectator Bird, brought the life and landscapes of the West to national and international attention. Now, in this illuminating biography, Philip L. Fradkin goes beyond Stegner’s iconic literary status to give us, as well, the influential teacher and visionary conservationist, the man for whom the preservation and integrity of place was as important as his ability to render its qualities and character in his brilliantly crafted fiction and nonfiction. From his birth in 1909 until his death in 1993, Stegner witnessed nearly a century of change in the land that he loved and fought so hard to preserve. We learn of his hardscrabble youth on the Canadian frontier and in Utah, and of his painful relationship with his father, a bootlegger and gambler. We follow his intellectual awakening as a young man and his years as a Depression-era graduate student at the University of Iowa, during its earliest days as a literary center. We watch as he finds his home, with his wife, Mary, in the foothills above Palo Alto, which provided him with a long-awaited sense of belonging and a refuge in which he would write his most treasured works. And here are his years as the legendary founder of the Stanford Creative Writing Program, where his students included Ken Kesey, Edward Abbey, Robert Stone, and Wendell Berry. But the changes wrought by developers and industrialists were too much for Stegner, and he tirelessly fought the transformation of his Garden of Eden into Silicon Valley. His writings on the importance of establishing national parks and wilderness areas—not only for the preservation of untouched landscape but also for the enrichment of the human spirit—played a key role in the passage of historic legislation and comprise some of the most beautiful words ever written about the natural world. Here, too, is the story—told in full for the first time—of the accusations of plagiarism that followed the publication of Angle of Repose, and of the shadow they have cast on his greatest work. Rich in personal and literary detail, and in the sensual description of the country that shaped his work and his life—this is the definitive account of one of the most acclaimed and admired writers, teachers, and conservationists of our time.

30 review for Wallace Stegner and the American West

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lorna

    Wallace Stegner and the American West was an all encompassing biography of the literary legend Wallace Stegner by Philip L. Fradkin. However, what distinguishes this book from the other biographies that have been written about Stegner is that they were written by profesors of literature tending to concentrate on his expansive body of literary works, while Fradkin states that he was more intrigued by the whole man -- and how the physical landscapes he inhabited influenced him. And it was because Wallace Stegner and the American West was an all encompassing biography of the literary legend Wallace Stegner by Philip L. Fradkin. However, what distinguishes this book from the other biographies that have been written about Stegner is that they were written by profesors of literature tending to concentrate on his expansive body of literary works, while Fradkin states that he was more intrigued by the whole man -- and how the physical landscapes he inhabited influenced him. And it was because of this that I found this biography to illuminate the values of Wallace Stegner in a whole new way. The author says it this way: "Synedoche, meaning a specific example used to illustrate a generality, was one of Stegner's favorite words and writing techniques. In a similar fashiom, I use the life of Wallace Stegner as the vista from which to gaze upon the panorama of the American West in the twentieth century, for his time spanned the transition from the prairie frontier to Silicon Valley. Stegner inhabited all of the West's different landscapes physically, emotionally, and mentally, as well as in his writings. The prairies, mountains, deserts, plateaus, rivers, coast, remote villages, small towns, and cities of the West were intimately known to him." Each of the sections of this beautiful book discuss not only the life and literary career of Wallace Stegner but the different areas of his life that shaped who the man was including his early and formative years followed by his teaching years where he had writers in his workshop that still resonate on the literary stage such as Larry McMurtrey, Ken Kesey, Edward Abbey, Willa Cather and Katherine Anne Porter. "As autobiographical works, Stegner cited 'The Big Rock Candy Mountain', 'Wolf Willow,' and 'Recapitulation' as defining his life in the interior West; 'A Shooting Star'; 'All The Live Things', 'Angle of Repose', and 'Spectator Bird' contained shards of his California experience; and 'Crossing to Safety' touched upon the Vermont years." Wallace Stegner has become one of my favorite authors, partially because he has embraced the West not only by writing so beautifully about this expansive country but also taking an active role in preserving our national parks throughout this region. Wallace Stegner also was a brilliant writer and not only produced his own beautiful body of work, but also taught and shepherded some of our finest writers in giving us a lot of literary works. Thank you, Wally!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Deyanne

    I found this book helpful as I review Stegner's life and influence in the literary world. Of particular interest to me were the sections on Angle of Repose. Stegner's influence is broad. He was a teacher, a conservationist and a slayer of myths. This book provided me with some excellent materials to share in a book group. When there is more time, I will include some of my favorite quotes. I found this book helpful as I review Stegner's life and influence in the literary world. Of particular interest to me were the sections on Angle of Repose. Stegner's influence is broad. He was a teacher, a conservationist and a slayer of myths. This book provided me with some excellent materials to share in a book group. When there is more time, I will include some of my favorite quotes.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rae

    An extremely well-written bio of Wally Stegner. Highly recommended...as are most of Stegner's works. "Who cares what happened so many years ago?" she asked. "The ignorance of this woman," Lopez said, "has never ceased to frighten rather than amaze me." He observed that history for many people was a nuisance, and he bemoaned the loss of historical perspective. "It requires deliberation and reflection," Lopez wrote Stegner, "neither of which is in vogue in this country...We should practice the cons An extremely well-written bio of Wally Stegner. Highly recommended...as are most of Stegner's works. "Who cares what happened so many years ago?" she asked. "The ignorance of this woman," Lopez said, "has never ceased to frighten rather than amaze me." He observed that history for many people was a nuisance, and he bemoaned the loss of historical perspective. "It requires deliberation and reflection," Lopez wrote Stegner, "neither of which is in vogue in this country...We should practice the conservation of history as we practice the conservation of water."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Connie Kronlokken

    Wallace Stegner means a lot to Westerners. He tried mightily to revoke the dominant romantic image of the West, in which a single individual rides in and saves the town. In the real world, as Stegner found it, it was small communities sticking together which accomplished things. Larry McMurtry notes, however, that "whatever truth about the West is printed, the legend is always more potent." Stegner was also a strong voice for the environment, especially during the time of the Wilderness Act of 19 Wallace Stegner means a lot to Westerners. He tried mightily to revoke the dominant romantic image of the West, in which a single individual rides in and saves the town. In the real world, as Stegner found it, it was small communities sticking together which accomplished things. Larry McMurtry notes, however, that "whatever truth about the West is printed, the legend is always more potent." Stegner was also a strong voice for the environment, especially during the time of the Wilderness Act of 1964. His "wilderness letter" which was published at that time is beautiful. He reminds us that we are "brother to the animals" and that we should try to be "good animals." I have loved his later novels. This book is well researched and fair. It goes into the problems Stegner had with his use of Mary Hallock Foote's letters in "Angle of Repose" thoroughly, which can be problems for all writers of realistic fiction.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    I read this book as a companion to Crossing to Safety. A biography, it focuses on Stegner's contributions in documenting the West through both fiction and environmental writing. Stegner was on the board of the Sierra Club and worked for the Interior Department for a time, but he is most famous as the founding director of the Stanford Creative Writing Program. His students are a Who's Who of 20th Century writers: Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, Ken Kesey, Larry McMurtry, Tillie Olsen, Scott Turow, H I read this book as a companion to Crossing to Safety. A biography, it focuses on Stegner's contributions in documenting the West through both fiction and environmental writing. Stegner was on the board of the Sierra Club and worked for the Interior Department for a time, but he is most famous as the founding director of the Stanford Creative Writing Program. His students are a Who's Who of 20th Century writers: Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, Ken Kesey, Larry McMurtry, Tillie Olsen, Scott Turow, Harriet Doerr, Allan Gurganus, Tobias Wolff, etc. Perhaps most interesting about this book is its background on Stegner's most famous novels. The inspiration for (and legal battles that followed) Angle of Repose, and the decades-long friendship that is the subject of Crossing to Safety. I particularly enjoyed the photos.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Read/skimmed much of the biographical info, which was interesting. Family fairly rootless for first decade of his life or so, and his father was absolutely not supportive of him or most of his interests, so what he made of his life is really a testament to his own intelligence and tenacity. Mostly wanted to read for the very in-depth chapter on Angle of Repose (which I read for a book group) and the controversies around that book. Definitely worth reading if you are into that kind of information Read/skimmed much of the biographical info, which was interesting. Family fairly rootless for first decade of his life or so, and his father was absolutely not supportive of him or most of his interests, so what he made of his life is really a testament to his own intelligence and tenacity. Mostly wanted to read for the very in-depth chapter on Angle of Repose (which I read for a book group) and the controversies around that book. Definitely worth reading if you are into that kind of information.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bobbi

    Anyone who has read Wallace Stegner's fiction or nonfiction can appreciate this extraordinary writer. His prose sings throughout his books. This biography describes his fascinating life as well as analyzes many of his most popular books. A very good read. Anyone who has read Wallace Stegner's fiction or nonfiction can appreciate this extraordinary writer. His prose sings throughout his books. This biography describes his fascinating life as well as analyzes many of his most popular books. A very good read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Charles Matthews

    Sturdy and fact-packed, Philip L. Fradkin’s “Wallace Stegner and the American West” will satisfy anyone who wants to know what Stegner did and when and where he did it. Those who want to know why and sometimes how may find themselves frustrated. Fradkin lives near Point Reyes, has been an environmental reporter for the Los Angeles Times and an editor for Audubon magazine, and is the author of numerous books about the American West, including “A River No More: The Colorado River and the West.” So Sturdy and fact-packed, Philip L. Fradkin’s “Wallace Stegner and the American West” will satisfy anyone who wants to know what Stegner did and when and where he did it. Those who want to know why and sometimes how may find themselves frustrated. Fradkin lives near Point Reyes, has been an environmental reporter for the Los Angeles Times and an editor for Audubon magazine, and is the author of numerous books about the American West, including “A River No More: The Colorado River and the West.” So it’s not surprising that the best parts of his biography are the ones about Stegner as conservationist. Stegner was acutely aware of the central problem of the American West: “the aridity that breeds sparseness and the denial of that condition, which leads to overdevelopment.” In his book “Beyond the Hundredth Meridian,” he examined the causes and the consequences of the exploitation of the West. As Fradkin summarizes it, “Myth, which was supported by western politicians, said there was water for everyone and every use. Science … said, Wait a minute. Let’s determine how much water there really is and what it can support. … In the end, Science was defeated by Myth.” “Stegner could not deal with the second western constant – the first being aridity and the second rapid change,” Fradkin writes. “Change would alienate Stegner from his native place.” Los Altos Hills, where he had built his home during his early years at Stanford, changed from a rural retreat to a prime location for the mansions of Silicon Valley multimillionaires. So Stegner “decided he would seek his final resting place, his angle of repose, in Vermont.” In New England, Stegner believed he had found the respect for the land, the tradition and the sense of community that had vanished from – or never existed in – California. Fradkin is a great admirer of Stegner, whom he sometimes refers to as "Wally." But while Fradkin does a good job of depicting Stegner the conservationist, he stumbles in his treatment of Stegner the writer and teacher. Of Stegner’s works of fiction, the only one that Fradkin deals with in any great detail is the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Angle of Repose.” The novel is based on the life of Mary Hallock Foote, a writer of the late 19th and early 20th century who was married to a mining engineer. Foote’s heirs gave Stegner permission to use as much of her private papers and letters as he desired, and he borrowed heavily from Foote’s writing, sometimes with only minor changes. But when the book appeared, the family was shocked by some of his alterations in Mary’s life story, and when critics and scholars examined Stegner’s sources, there were charges of plagiarism – countered by the defense that Stegner had only creatively adapted a source that he had acknowledged, albeit vaguely. Fradkin does an excellent job of exploring the plagiarism controversy, coming down on Stegner’s side, while admitting that Stegner could have been more candid with both Foote’s descendants and his readers. Fradkin also deals with the cavalier dismissal of “Angle of Repose” by the country’s most powerful book section, the New York Times Book Review. John Leonard, then the editor of the book review, called the novel “another in a long, apparently endless, line of Pulitzer disappointments: Forthright, yes; and morally uplifting; and middlebrow.” Yet Fradkin does little to demonstrate that the novel, or indeed any of Stegner’s novels, deserves more to be taken more seriously than Leonard did. Comfortable in amassing the details of Stegner’s life and exploring his work as a conservationist, Fradkin seems ill at ease in discussing Stegner’s fiction, which also makes for a rather tedious account of Stegner as teacher. He tells us that Stegner’s students “constitute a virtual hall of fame of American letters (Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, Ken Kesey, Larry McMurtry, Robert Stone, and Scott Turow, to name just a few).” But that’s a “hall of fame” that apparently contains no African-Americans, Latinos or women, and to most readers will sound like a rather thin sampling of contemporary American writers. And while Fradkin quotes one former student after another praising Stegner’s “teaching technique,” no one seems to be able to come up with any particulars about what made him such a good teacher. Stegner could be, one gathers, a bit of a porcupine, erecting his quills against even the presence of an enemy. Fradkin tells us of his fights with David Brower, the “Archdruid” whose ouster from the Sierra Club Stegner supported, and with his Stanford colleagues Yvor Winters and Albert Guérard. Eleven years after he left Stanford, Stegner’s enmity toward Guérard led him, in 1982, to threaten to take his name off the Stegner Fellowships because of the appointment of Gilbert Sorrentino – whom Stegner called “a coterie writer of minimum distinction” – as a creative writing teacher. Stegner backed down on the threat, but subsequently decided to donate his papers to the University of Utah instead of to Stanford. Stegner’s behavior reminds one of the observation that the reason academic politics are so bitter is that the stakes are so low. But Fradkin mostly downplays this prickly, even irrational side of the man. Though he says Stegner’s son, Page, told him he didn’t want “another hagiography,” the book seems over-discreet. There is little, for example, about Stegner’s relationship with his son, except for Page’s period of rebellion in adolescence and the time an angry Stegner chased Page with a scythe. And there’s even less about Mary Stegner, his wife, who suffered from various ailments (she may have been a hypochondriac) but who outlived him. As for Stegner’s own family background, we learn that he was a “mamma’s boy,” and that he hated his ne’er-do-well father so much that, 40 years after George Stegner died in a rather lurid murder-suicide, “Stegner vowed he would never buy a tombstone for his father’s grave.” But Fradkin doesn’t use these details to give us insight into the man Stegner became or the books he wrote. At best, what Fradkin has given us is a partial portrait of the man and the writer, set inside a fuller portrait of Stegner’s relationship to the lands he loved and defended – lands for which he mourned when he saw them transformed by a civilization unprepared to cope with their harsh demands.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joe Dobrow

    Favorite excerpts from Wallace Stegner and the American West: p. 104, quoting Stegner from late April of 1944: “A New England spring is a fraud, really. You wait and wait and tentatively go without a coat, and catch cold, and recover, and it snows, and then it rains, and the sun shines a little, hopefully, and the much-postponed baseball season gets in a game or two, and then it blows up an east wind and freezes the statues in Monument Square, and then it rains, and then one day all of a sudden i Favorite excerpts from Wallace Stegner and the American West: p. 104, quoting Stegner from late April of 1944: “A New England spring is a fraud, really. You wait and wait and tentatively go without a coat, and catch cold, and recover, and it snows, and then it rains, and the sun shines a little, hopefully, and the much-postponed baseball season gets in a game or two, and then it blows up an east wind and freezes the statues in Monument Square, and then it rains, and then one day all of a sudden it’s hot as hell, with a humidity of ninety-eight and that was spring that you just suffered through.” p. 177, Devoto writing to Stegner about Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: “’Why you God-damned idiot, this is a distinguished book, a fascinating book, and a much needed book.’ Write for the reader, not the bookstore buyer, he advised. ‘Never be afraid of length, only superfluity.’ Trust your first instincts. ‘Write things the natural and logical way.’ When you create a climax, make it a real climax, for there is ‘no point in putting a silencer on the gun when you shoot a sheriff.’” p. 219, Stegner talking about serving on the board of the Sierra Club: “I don’t apologize for being an elitist. God knows, my background is about as democratic and lumpenproletariat as you could get. But it does seem to me that the world progresses only through its special people, and that instead of resenting them, it’s time we acknowledge them. An Ansel Adams is worth ten thousand of us. We ought to admit that.” p. 311, Stegner referred to Lake Powell as “dammed Glen Canyon.”

  10. 5 out of 5

    John

    This biography of Wallace Stegner did not offer me any “angle of repose.” Although well written, it unfortunately, was not much of a story and was somewhat boring and disappointing. My bookshelf already contains one of Stegner’s books “to read” and I learned of a few more here to consider so that was at least a positive. However, I did enjoy this elaboration of Stegner’s “Angle of Repose” by Antonya Nelson in “Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape” “Nearly self-explanatory, the oxymoro This biography of Wallace Stegner did not offer me any “angle of repose.” Although well written, it unfortunately, was not much of a story and was somewhat boring and disappointing. My bookshelf already contains one of Stegner’s books “to read” and I learned of a few more here to consider so that was at least a positive. However, I did enjoy this elaboration of Stegner’s “Angle of Repose” by Antonya Nelson in “Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape” “Nearly self-explanatory, the oxymoronic-seeming term angle of repose designates the maximum angle at which a slope of loose material (such as soil or sand) remains stable. It is the point at which gravity challenges friction, the tense moment before one succumbs to the other…It’s a term begging to be made metaphorical for human relations, as Wallace Stegner demonstrates in his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by the same name. In the book, the fraught connection of the present to the past, one generation to the next, replicates the peculiar tension between friction and gravity, between hanging on and falling apart. “You were too alert to the figurative possibilities of words not to see the phrase as descriptive of human as well as detrital rest,” Stegner writes. “As you said, it was too good for mere dirt; you tried to apply it to your own wandering and uneasy life. It is the angle I am aiming for myself, and I don’t mean the rigid angle at which I rest in this chair.”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kip

    I thought that this biography of Wallace Stegner was interesting, particularly in chapters such as the one about the controversy surrounding Angle of Repose. And I learned a number of things about Stegner that I hadn't known before. I also appreciated the book's honest approach in discussing the author's strengths and weaknesses. However, by the end, I'd have to say that I felt somewhat disappointed by this effort. I certainly don't claim to be a Stegner expert, but I did my master's thesis on t I thought that this biography of Wallace Stegner was interesting, particularly in chapters such as the one about the controversy surrounding Angle of Repose. And I learned a number of things about Stegner that I hadn't known before. I also appreciated the book's honest approach in discussing the author's strengths and weaknesses. However, by the end, I'd have to say that I felt somewhat disappointed by this effort. I certainly don't claim to be a Stegner expert, but I did my master's thesis on three of Stegner's novels and have read other works both by and about Stegner. In any case, as I read this bio, I kept wishing that Fradkin had written a more penetrating and insightful book. The analysis didn't seem particularly thoughtful, and the book also seemed to be lacking in terms of vivid stories and examples from Stegner's life. It just wasn't as interesting a book as I expected. Maybe I'll give the Jackson Benson bio a try.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John

    Great read. Fradkin focuses on the man outside of his literary works, bringing attention to his seminal influence as one of the founders of the teaching of creative writing at the university level, and his role in the expansion and preservation of public lands in the West. I wish there had been a bit more awareness though, of how Stegner's minor literary works were related to his major ones. In this connection A Shooting Star was in some ways a dry run for Angle of Repose, in that both had Stegn Great read. Fradkin focuses on the man outside of his literary works, bringing attention to his seminal influence as one of the founders of the teaching of creative writing at the university level, and his role in the expansion and preservation of public lands in the West. I wish there had been a bit more awareness though, of how Stegner's minor literary works were related to his major ones. In this connection A Shooting Star was in some ways a dry run for Angle of Repose, in that both had Stegner speaking through a female protagonist in Northern California and both dealt with the ramifications of documented family history for the present.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Amazingly, I never heard of him until after I moved to Utah and found Crossing to Safety in the Canyon Way bookstore in Newport OR. I now live in Portland, but I digress. Once I discovered him I tried reading every novel and non-fiction book he had written, though some are out of print and others I couldn't get into. This biography covers Stegner's life as a professor, conservationist, and writer. I've learned much I didn't know about how he came to write Angle of Repose, for which he received t Amazingly, I never heard of him until after I moved to Utah and found Crossing to Safety in the Canyon Way bookstore in Newport OR. I now live in Portland, but I digress. Once I discovered him I tried reading every novel and non-fiction book he had written, though some are out of print and others I couldn't get into. This biography covers Stegner's life as a professor, conservationist, and writer. I've learned much I didn't know about how he came to write Angle of Repose, for which he received the Pulitzer. This book is a very engaging read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Vicky

    I was looking for a biography of a writer, i,e, Stegner's life and some critical writing about his works. This was more of a biography with major emphasis on his interest in and work for western conservation, I have read Angle of Repose (twice) and Crossing to Safety, both novels which dwell a lot on "place", but I was not aware of his work as a conservationist. I learned a lot about Stegner that I hadn't known before, I thought the writing was good, but I would still like to read a mmore tradit I was looking for a biography of a writer, i,e, Stegner's life and some critical writing about his works. This was more of a biography with major emphasis on his interest in and work for western conservation, I have read Angle of Repose (twice) and Crossing to Safety, both novels which dwell a lot on "place", but I was not aware of his work as a conservationist. I learned a lot about Stegner that I hadn't known before, I thought the writing was good, but I would still like to read a mmore traditional biography.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Julie M

    Fascinating to read about the author's life, as both a son (horrible father!) and a father (never quite confident). The changes in the American West which he chronicled through the 100 years ending in the late 1970's profoundly impacted him and made him more a conservation writer/naturalist at the end of his career. Espcially as he wrote and taught at UW-Madison and Berkeley. After reading 'Angle of Repose' again in summer '08 I was especially interested in the chapters on how that book was sour Fascinating to read about the author's life, as both a son (horrible father!) and a father (never quite confident). The changes in the American West which he chronicled through the 100 years ending in the late 1970's profoundly impacted him and made him more a conservation writer/naturalist at the end of his career. Espcially as he wrote and taught at UW-Madison and Berkeley. After reading 'Angle of Repose' again in summer '08 I was especially interested in the chapters on how that book was sourced and researched. Insightful.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    I came across the name of Wallace Stegner multiple times while reading some historical accounts of old California. Maybe the foremost writer of the American West, Stegner focuses primarily on the aridity of the West and the challenges that causes in terms of supporting large populations as well as change as a natural byproduct of the Western ideals. This was a good look at the man from birth in Iowa through death in Sante Fe with a lot of stops in between. I'm looking forward to reading a few of I came across the name of Wallace Stegner multiple times while reading some historical accounts of old California. Maybe the foremost writer of the American West, Stegner focuses primarily on the aridity of the West and the challenges that causes in terms of supporting large populations as well as change as a natural byproduct of the Western ideals. This was a good look at the man from birth in Iowa through death in Sante Fe with a lot of stops in between. I'm looking forward to reading a few of his own books, particularly "Beyond the Hundredth Meridian" and "All the Little Live Things".

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Very thorough biography. Very interesting insights into the his life--as well as insights into his relationships with other writers that he taught. Loved the Utah bits as well. If there is anyone out there that hasn't read Stegner's "Mormon Country" you're missing out. It is the best book I've found to give to non-Mormons that describes our culture and past--especially from the "gentile" perspective. Very thorough biography. Very interesting insights into the his life--as well as insights into his relationships with other writers that he taught. Loved the Utah bits as well. If there is anyone out there that hasn't read Stegner's "Mormon Country" you're missing out. It is the best book I've found to give to non-Mormons that describes our culture and past--especially from the "gentile" perspective.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I adore Wallace Stegner and finally got around to reading this biography. It is facinating on so many fronts, but not for anyone who wouldnt already have an interest in Stegner. It is a bit academic at times and intentionally does not include the personal aspects that would provide insights and more color to the book. Really interesting to better understand how all his books fit into his life and to learn about a few that I havent yet read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bonita

    I discovered Wallace Stegner's books probably 20 years ago. He is perhaps my favorite author. This book is a well written biography about him and it reveals from where his sources came for his books. I just wish I had known about his life before I started reading his books. I am in the process of reading again "Crossing to Safety" and will then read "Angle of Repose". I discovered Wallace Stegner's books probably 20 years ago. He is perhaps my favorite author. This book is a well written biography about him and it reveals from where his sources came for his books. I just wish I had known about his life before I started reading his books. I am in the process of reading again "Crossing to Safety" and will then read "Angle of Repose".

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    This book was interesting for me, because Wallace Stegner is one of my favorite authors, but not a really great biography. I didn't really like the author's style of writing. He rambled on too much, and talked too much about people other than Stegner, including himself. I just wanted the stories about Stegner. But, worth reading, especially for fans like myself. This book was interesting for me, because Wallace Stegner is one of my favorite authors, but not a really great biography. I didn't really like the author's style of writing. He rambled on too much, and talked too much about people other than Stegner, including himself. I just wanted the stories about Stegner. But, worth reading, especially for fans like myself.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Spencer Willardson

    This was a great portrait of a writer. I became interested in Stegner after reading "The Gathering of Zion" a few weeks ago. Fradkin does a good job of thematically covering Stegner's life and the different aspects of it: writer, teacher, activist, mentor, and even bureaucrat. If you are interested in writing, the West, or even just interesting people - then this is a good book to explore. This was a great portrait of a writer. I became interested in Stegner after reading "The Gathering of Zion" a few weeks ago. Fradkin does a good job of thematically covering Stegner's life and the different aspects of it: writer, teacher, activist, mentor, and even bureaucrat. If you are interested in writing, the West, or even just interesting people - then this is a good book to explore.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    Well-constructed and -crafted bio. Fradkin develops strands of Stegner that combine to make a whole: the personal, the conservationist, the teacher, and the writer. In that way, he can follow one element over time, although of course they overlap. Still, it was cleverly handled and made for a readable account of Stegner as well as his influences. Recommend for any Stegner fan.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Edward Nugent

    This is a good literary biography, and reveals part of the man. Realizing that Stegner himself writes biographically in his fiction,a little more about who Stegner was outside his public presence would have been appreciated. Frankin writes about Stegner like Stegner wrote about Devoto. It is a very readable biography, though it sometimes bogs down in academiceese.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Baldbasq

    This new biography of Stegner adds a good deal to what we have know about him. It provides a probing, sometimes critical lifestory. The emphases are more on places and their shaping power on Stegner than on the content and substance of his many writings.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kev

    Brand spanking new. Just out. I can't wait to read it. My favorite author of " River No More" writes a biography of my favorite author of American Western History & "Beyond the 100th Meridian." How awesome is that!? Brand spanking new. Just out. I can't wait to read it. My favorite author of " River No More" writes a biography of my favorite author of American Western History & "Beyond the 100th Meridian." How awesome is that!?

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cara

    Returned to the library without finishing it. Found the writing style very stilted and not particularly engaging. With such a long list of potentially more interesting books to read, I put this aside.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    Nothing wrong with this...just kept getting passed over for more interesting books. Would like to finish someday.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Could've been better, but interesting enough to make me read more Stegner. Could've been better, but interesting enough to make me read more Stegner.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Liked discovering that the author is as good and gentlemanly a guy as I had always believed from his writing. (Still haven't gotten over my disillusionment with Salinger). Liked discovering that the author is as good and gentlemanly a guy as I had always believed from his writing. (Still haven't gotten over my disillusionment with Salinger).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    Great bio of an interesting man in fascinating times.

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