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Wallace Stegner: A Biography
     

Wallace Stegner: A Biography

by Jackson J. Benson
 
When Jackson Benson’s biography of John Steinbeck was published in 1984, it was hailed as definitive and reviewed on the front page of every major newspaper in the country. Now, in an equally groundbreaking work, Benson takes on the late Wallace Stegner—conservationist, teacher, and author of more than two dozen works of history, biography, essays, and fiction,

Overview

When Jackson Benson’s biography of John Steinbeck was published in 1984, it was hailed as definitive and reviewed on the front page of every major newspaper in the country. Now, in an equally groundbreaking work, Benson takes on the late Wallace Stegner—conservationist, teacher, and author of more than two dozen works of history, biography, essays, and fiction, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angle of Repose (1971), the National Book Award-winning Spectator Bird (1976), and the bestselling Crossing to Safety (1987). Drawing on nearly ten years of research and hundreds of hours of interviews, this authorized biography traces the trajectory of Stegner’s life from his prairie childhood in Saskatchewan and teenage years in Salt Lake City to his prominence in the environmental movement and the impact of his Stanford University creative writing program—whose students included Larry McMurtry, Robert Stone, Ken Kesey, and Ivan Doig. Wallace Stegner is a close encounter with one of the greatest American writers of our time.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
Wallace Stegner (1909-93) was a prolific writer of history (The Gathering of Zion, LJ 2/15/75; Univ. of Nebraska, 1992. reprint), biography (Ansel Adams, Bulfinch, 1988), novels (the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angle of Repose, LJ 4/1/71; Penguin, 1992. reprint); short fiction; and essays. Benson (American literature, San Diego State Univ.), the biographer of Steinbeck (The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer, Penguin, 1990. reprint), has written with admiration and fairness this first full-scale study of Stegner's life and accomplishments. Benson's thorough research included a study of Stegner's private papers and extensive interviews with Stegner and his wife, Mary. Benson does not touch on every detail; we learn, for example, almost nothing about Stegner's relationship with his son. But this is generally a good study of Stegner's personal life, describing his youth in Saskatchewan and Salt Lake City; his career as a teacher, including the founding of the Stanford University Writing Program; and his development as a writer, with extensive, cogent analyses of his work and his involvement with the conservation movement. Highly recommended, particularly for academic and public libraries in the West.Judy Mimken, Boise P.L., Id.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140247961
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
11/01/1997
Pages:
496
Product dimensions:
5.34(w) x 7.96(h) x 1.22(d)

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