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Marking the Sparrow's Fall: Wallace Stegner's American West


Marking the Sparrow's Fall is Wallace Stegner's biggest collection and the first since his death in 1993. His son, Page, has selected fifteen essays that have never before been published in any book and placed them alongside Wallace Stegner's most powerful pieces in the book's three nonfiction parts: Home Ground (memory), Testimony (defense of the earth), and Inheritance (history). The fourth section of the book is devoted to a magnificent little-known novella, Genesis. ...
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9/1/1998 Hardcover 1st New 0805044647 Excellent condition, hardback 1998, no marks, great cover, great dust jacket, readit, VG+/VG+

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1998 Hard cover First edition. STATED 1ST EDITION, 1ST PRINTING New in new dust jacket. BRIGHT SHINY, BRAND NEW Sewn binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 359 p. ... Audience: General/trade. Read more Show Less

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Marking the Sparrow's Fall is Wallace Stegner's biggest collection and the first since his death in 1993. His son, Page, has selected fifteen essays that have never before been published in any book and placed them alongside Wallace Stegner's most powerful pieces in the book's three nonfiction parts: Home Ground (memory), Testimony (defense of the earth), and Inheritance (history). The fourth section of the book is devoted to a magnificent little-known novella, Genesis.

Thirty classic stories from young love to old wisdom from landscape to the mind's scope.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
These 31 classic stories record much of the cultural climate of 20th-century America, its West in particular, constituting, as the NBA and Pulitzer Prize-winning author affectionately notes, not an autobiography, but ``a sort of personal record.'' As combined here, the tales are a window onto a vivid American past that is as focused as a Norman Rockwell painting, although far more astringent and hardly as wholesome. Settings range from Stegner's native Canada to Utah, California and Vermont--all memorable places in the author's life. The stories are not arranged chronologically: Stegner's dark, voyeuristic peek into the lives of women awaiting letters from men serving in WW II gives way to an account of a bloodthirsty boyhood on the hot, flat frontier of a Saskatchewan farm. Best of all is the slicing wit of ``Field Guide to the Western Birds,'' in which a curmudgeon acidly comments on the petulant antics of a would-be virtuoso. Several of the stories have been reshaped and interpolated into such novels as Wolf Willow and The Big Rock Candy Mountain. (Mar.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Showcasing a talent often as breathtaking as the landscape that was Stegner's lifelong muse, this first posthumous essay collection by the novelist, historian and biographer who died in 1993 confirms his rank as one of the American West's preeminent literary champions. Though some of Stegner's most celebrated work is included among these 23 essays and one novella (all written between 1948 and 1992), many are little-known items culled from magazines and journals. Even in more obscure pieces, such as a travelogue describing the Great Salt Lake originally published in 1957 in Holiday magazine, readers will find the themes that Stegner used in his fictional efforts to save the American frontier from becoming irrevocably commodified. "Aridity" as the great cultural forge is an overarching motif here, but the writing is never dry. "Who built the West as a living-place, a frugal, hard, gloriously satisfying civilization scrabbling for its existence against the forces of weather and a land as fragile as it is demanding was not rugged individualists but cooperators, neighbors who knew how to help out in a crisis," he writes in "Land: America's History Teacher," a brilliant overview of frontier land "disposal" since the 18th century. In "At Home in the Fields of the Lord," he says of Salt Lake City, "Having blown tumble-weed fashion around the continent so that I am forced to select a hometown, I find myself selecting the City of the Saints." Stegner is himself a contemporary saint to the modern conservation movement that, without him, "would still be trying to mine quotable nuggets from Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold," according to Page Stegner, his son and editor. Agent, Don Congdon Associates. (Sept.)
Library Journal
A prolific and gifted writer, Wallace Stegner (1909-93) helped shape the literature of the American West. Here Stegner's son Page collects a series of his father's writing, including environmental essays and the "Wilderness Letter," which is often cited as one of the seminal documents of the environmental movement. The essays are grouped into three general sections--autobiographical, ecological, and academic--followed by the novella "Genesis." Though each section's preface gives publication dates where appropriate, individual essays are not dated according to when they were originally written, making it difficult to place them in historical context. All the essays are polished and intelligent compositions. Recommended for all Stegner collections as well as environmental and regional collections.--Katherine K. Koenig, Ellis Sch., Greensburg, PA
Library Journal
Stegner is best known for his epic novels of the American West--books such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angle of Repose (1971)--but in his younger years he was a prolific short story writer. Like the novels, Stegner's stories are traditional in style and typically look back with nostalgic longing to a nobler period of America's past. However, since most of these works were written in the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties, the ``present'' Stegner condemns is itself impossibly old-fashioned, and his anti-modern bias seems a bit ridiculous. Some of the stories in this collection are simply museum pieces, but several retain their vitality, notably ``The Sweetness of the Twisted Apples,'' ``The City of the Living,'' and ``The Volunteer.'' Recommended for larger fiction collections.-- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch., Los Angeles
Kirkus Reviews
A greatest-hits package from the late dean of western American letters. Stegner (1912þ1993), already widely respected as a novelist and historian, became a hero of the environmentalist movement with his 1962 "Wilderness Letter," which made a plea to protect public lands in the west. He revisited this theme often while writing magazine pieces with western settings, most of which Stegner himself roundly dismissed as "grocery-buying junk." His son Page Stegner, a historian, has collected representative essays here, a handful of whichþmostly travelogues and op-ed piecesþindeed seem to have been written for a quick boost in disposable income. Most of the others are, however, vintage Stegner, written with an eye toward educating the reader in the historical and ecological value of the western landscape. Stegner visits Lake Powell, the 200-mile-long result of damming Glen Canyon on the Colorado River; travels down the backroads of Utah and Saskatchewan; and wanders through western ghost towns. As he does so, he offers lessons from the past and warnings about the future, writing, for instance, "No western states except those on the Pacific Coast can permanently support large populations"þand this at a time before Nevada, Arizona, or Colorado had yet begun their ongoing population explosions. Readers familiar with Stegner's western oeuvre, especially "The Sound of Mountain Water" and his 1987 lecture series, "The American West as Living Space," will find little substantively new here, although Stegner fils has turned up some less celebrated writings that merit reprinting. For readers who are new to Stegner's environmental work, this is as good an introduction as any.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805044645
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 359
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Meet the Author

Wallace Stegner
Taking the American frontier – both physical and psychological – as his subject, Wallace Stegner created a body of work that stretches from prizewinning novels and short stories to historical and political nonfiction. Taking both human experience and natural beauty as his muses, Stegner embodied what he called the “western character.”


Wallace Stegner was born in 1909 in Lake Mills, Iowa. The son of Scandinavian immigrants, he traveled with his parents and brother all over the West-to North Dakota, Washington, Saskatchewan, Montana, and Wyoming-before settling in Salt Lake City in 1921. Many of the landscapes he encountered in his peripatetic youth figure largely in his work, as do characters based on his stern father and athletic, outgoing brother. Stegner received most of his education in Utah, graduating from the University in 1930. He furthered his education at the University of Iowa, where he received a master's and a doctoral degree. He married Mary Stuart Page in 1934, and for the next decade the couple followed Wallace's teaching career-to the University of Wisconsin, Harvard, and eventually to Stanford University, where he founded the creative writing program, and where he was to remain until his retirement in 1971. A number of his creative writing students have become some of today's most well respected writers, including Wendell Berry, Thomas McGuane, Raymond Carver, Edward Abbey, Robert Stone, and Larry McMurty.

Throughout his career and after, Stegner's literary output was tremendous. His first novel, Remembering Laughter, was published in 1937. By the time of his death in 1993 he had published some two dozen works of fiction, history, biography, and essays. Among his many literary prizes are the Pulitzer Prize for Angle of Repose (1971) and the National Book Award for The Spectator Bird (1976). His collection of essays, Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs (1992), was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle award.

Although his fiction deals with many universal themes, Stegner is primarily recognized as a writer of the American West. Much of his literature deals with debunking myths of the West as a romantic country of heroes on horseback, and his passion for the terrain and its inhabitants have earned him the title "The Dean of Western Letters." He was one of the few true Men of Letters in this generation. An historian, essayist, short story writer and novelist, as well as a leading environmental writer. Although always connected in people's minds with the West, he had a long association with New England. Many short stories and one of his most successful novels, Crossing to Safety, are set in Vermont, where he had a summer home for many years. Another novel, The Spectator Bird, takes place in Denmark.

An early environmentalist, he actively championed the region's preservation and was instrumental-with his now-famous 'Wilderness Letter'-in the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act. Honest and straightforward, educated yet unpretentious, cantankerous yet compassionate, Wallace Stegner was an enormous presence in the American literary landscape, a man who wrote and lived with ferocity, energy, and integrity.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Wallace Earle Stegner (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 18, 1909
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lake Mills, Iowa
    1. Date of Death:
      April 13, 1993
    2. Place of Death:
      Santa Fe, New Mexico

Table of Contents

Foreword: I Sing of America
Home Ground
Child of the Far Frontier 5
The Making of Paths 11
That Great Falls Year 16
At Home in the Fields of the Lord 29
Xanadu by the Salt Flats 38
The World's Strangest Sea 46
Lake Powell 57
Back Roads River 68
Back Roads of the American West 82
Why I Like the West 96
Wilderness Letter 111
It All Began with Conservation 121
The Best Idea We Ever Had 135
Qualified Homage to Thoreau 143
Living on Our Principal 149
Bernard DeVoto 161
Conservation Equals Survival 174
Now, If I Ruled the World ... 182
The Twilight of Self-Reliance 189
Living Dry 213
The Rocky Mountain West 230
Land: America's History Teacher 260
Genesis 281
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