Conversations on History and Literature
Publication Year: 1996
Published by: University of Nevada Press
Foreword to Nevada edition
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Intimacy and candor are the essence of any good conversation, and those qualities make the dialogues in this book memorable. Wallace Stegner had a gift for pithy, pungent expression, and one finds nuggets of his thought in these conversations with a friend he esteemed and trusted...
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What is most remarkable about Wallace Stegner's development as a major American literary figure is the absence of sudden thrusts or skyrockets. He has added to his reputation year by year and book by book. Whether as novelist, biographer, historian, essayist, literary critic, or teacher, he has produced a body of work of cumulative substance and stature. Even more...
After Ten Years
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Etulain: What do you think have been the most notable changes in the
American West during the last decade? Have the continuities been more
significant than the changes?
Stegner: Actually change may have been part of the continuity. The old boom-and-bust routine still goes on. I suppose Dallas, Denver, and a lot of places are less prosperous now than they were ten years ago--was it ten
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Etulain: I gather from what you have written in Wolf Willow  and Big Rock Candy Mountain  that your boyhood experiences gave you a strong sense of place. That's what you mean, isn't it, when you say: "I may not know who I am, but I know where I am from"?...
2. The Early Works
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Etulain: You have mentioned several times in interviews and in your autobiographical writings that your parents had a limited education, but were they interested in books; did you have easy access to public libraries in your early years?...
3. The Big Rock Candy Mountain
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Etulain: A good friend tells me that when she read The Big Rock Candy Mountain, she felt as if she were prying into your private life. She thought the writing of the novel must have been a painful experience, especially since you revealed so much about your family in your early...
4. The Later Works
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Etulain: You spoke earlier of Big Rock Candy Mountain as something of a turning point in your career. Your next book was One Nation . What were the circumstances that led to the writing of that volume?...
5. Angle of Repose
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Etulain: What was the genesis of Angle of Repose? How did you come
to write the novel?
Stegner: the genesis is clearly the Mary Hallock Foote papers. I was without book, and about that time a graduate student of mine, George McMurray, decided that he definitely was not going to make a dissertation...
6. On the Mormons
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Etulain: I suppose your first contact with the Latter-day Saints was
during your high school years in Salt Lake City. What were your first
Stegner: I'm not sure I remember any first impressions that were in any sense religious. The first impression I had of the Mormon Church was of...
7. The American Literary West
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Etulain: Is there a western regional literature? Do several western writers
share a number of common characteristics?
Stegner: I think there is a sort of umbrella which covers most of the western region. But within that umbrella the regions are pretty disparate, sometimes as disparate as New England is from the Midwest. But I think...
8. On Western History and Historians
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Etulain: Western historians seem to be more interested in the Old West
than in the modern West. Why do you think that is?
Stegner: I can think of some western historians who are interested in the modern West-Howard Lamar for one-and some people who go both ways, but I suppose that most of the people who have been writing about the...
9. The Wilderness West
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Etulain: In some of your nonfictional writing, you speak of growing up
without qualms about killing wildlife. How do you explain the change
to becoming an advocate of conservation?
Stegner: Oh, that's just a function of growing up. When you grow up on the frontier, you're more or less encouraged-in fact, you're urged, driven-to go out and kill gophers, for instance, because they're eating all the wheat...
10. What's Left of the West?
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Etulain: Are you optimistic about the future of the West? We've made
some mistakes, but haven't we done some things right, too?
Stegner: A few things right, maybe, belatedly, inadequately, too little, too late. But I'm not very optimistic about the future of the West. Particularly in the Southwest-Utah, Nevada, the desert areas of the West-something that...
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Early in 1978 I asked Wallace Stegner to collaborate in these interviews because I believed he was a major figure in American letters and perhaps the leading western writer. Within the previous decade he had capped a full and very successful career with a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for fiction and had narrowly missed another Pulitzer for his biography...
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Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 10 b/w photos
Publication Year: 1996