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Reviews 161 American Places. By Eliot Porter, Wallace Stegner, Page Stegner. (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1981. 224 pages, $39.75.) This is a big, colorful, wonderfully eloquent book. As a first course, it offers up 89 glorious photographs, beautifully reproduced, by an estab­ lished master. Eliot Porter’s images take us from Maine to California, from Michigan to Florida, and to dozens of points in between. His subjects range from sharp, vivid, closely detailed studies of wild flowers, to rather broader glimpses of natural — and occasionally even human — designs, to the most spacious and really breathtaking of landscapes. At turns, our glance is focused down on the crimson conflagration of hedgehog cactus, then released quite abruptly into the dreamy expanse of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. For this viewer, the impressions of Maine (especially a rockbound coastal inlet) and Utah (notably Escalante Canyon in a transcen­ dental mood) are most memorable. But there is something here, in regional subject and color and perspective, for every eye. Indeed, if it was Porter’s objective to instill wonder at the variety and grandeur of our great out-ofdoors , then he has most certainly succeeded. It is inevitably the case with a book of this size that its pictures are more accessible than its prose. For the reader willing to balance and bend over long double columns, however, there are verbal rewards commensurate with those provided by the plates. Wallace, the senior Stegner, is virtually continental in both experience and vision. Characteristically, he is masterful in his evocations of place, especially when his eye falls on places— in Utah, Vermont, or northern California — where he has lived and worked for long stretches of time. In a somewhat narrower geographical context, Page Stegner is no less successful at transporting our senses, and the eye of our mind. The dozens of sharp, authentic word pictures in this volume are at once testimony to the reverence and skill that both Stegners bring to their work, and a moving reminder of the central role that wilderness has played in the shaping of our national history and culture. Time and again, in both pictures and words, American Places restores us to the awareness that “every new generation of Americans inherits the expectations that free land aroused . . . even long after free land has vanished.” In making this important point, the authors adopt and reiterate the guiding purpose of the environmental movement: “to assert the long-range public interest against short-term economic interests — in effect, to promote civilized responsibility, both public and private, over frontier carelessness and greed.” This plea, more timely now than ever before, is dramatized by a running contrast between the simplicity and grandeur of American nature and the wasteful self-indulgence of the humans who have abused and despoiled the land. Understandably enough, this familiar juxtaposition triggers what some may find extreme, if also rather familiar, responses. Wallace Stegner, self-declared “an angry puritan,” hurls his disgust “into the teeth of Aspen and the whole resort world and the whole pleasure principle.” 162 Western American Literature Meanwhile, his son allows that “there are ways for people to exist in some measure of harmony with their natural surroundings,” but adds that “you might rather there were no people at all.” And, as if to suggest he indeed “might rather” wish mankind out of paradise, Eliot Porter excludes human figures from his grand American gallery. But even when they are out of sight, the prodigal Americans in American Places cannot be kept out of mind. Let us hope that this eloquent portrait of our leading national resource will prompt us to appreciate it more, and to use it better. FORREST G. ROBINSON University of California, Santa Cruz Frederick Manfred: A Bibliography and Publishing History. By Rodney J. Mulder and John H. Timmerman. (Sioux Falls, South Dakota: The Center for Western Studies, 1981. 139 pages, $16.95.) Scholars who have been watching the career of Frederick Manfred will take pleasure in this new bibliography, and so will many of his well-wishers from across the years. George Kellogg’s 1965 bibliography needed updating: the bulk of Manfred criticism has been written since Alan Swallow...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 161-162
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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