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Aggie Zed. THE REMARKABLE WAD. 2001. Pastel and ink on paper. 26" x 20". Courtesy of the artist. For more information on this artist, see . It ’s A b o u t T im e S o m e b o d y O u t H e r e W r o t e t h e T r u t h : B e t t y B a r d M a c D o n a l d a n d N o r t h / W e s t e r n R e g io n a l is m B e t h K r a i g In the summer of 1945, as World War II drew to a close, a humorous memoir about a teenage bride appeared in bookstores, a first book by a novice writer. Titled The Egg and I, the book offered a quirky blend of sarcasm and rhapsody in its descriptions of rural life on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula in the 1920s. Unexpectedly, readers snatched it up and the book soared to the top of the best-seller lists (Hart 268). In just over a year, its sales topped one million hard-cover copies and trans­ formed the book’s author, thirty-seven-year-old Betty Bard MacDonald, into the mid-twentieth century’s version of a public celebrity.^ And yet, although The Egg and I remains an amazing global accomplishment in publishing terms (still in print with sales to date of over three million copies in thirty-two different languages), even as her subsequent three books for adults (all memoirs) sold well and were reissued in the 1980s to attract new readers, Betty Bard MacDonald has not received much attention in scholarly realms.2 The few who have analyzed her work have primarily done so through the filter of gender and have centered on The Egg and I and its use of humor to develop protofeminist critiques of women’s domestic roles.^ Seeking to explain the paucity of contem­ porary critical awareness of MacDonald, critic and novelist Michael Upchurch has suggested that it stems from the fact that she lived and worked outside the usual sphere of literary power: “If she had been a New Yorker, her reputation would be as secure as Dorothy Parker’s” (D l). If MacDonald had been a New Yorker, she might never have become a writer, for the circumstances that prompted her to write and dictated her choice of subject matter revolved around the complicated relation­ ship between her identity, her voice, and the region in which she was born and spent her entire life— the West, and especially the Pacific Northwest. In her third memoir, Anybody Can Do Anything (1950), MacDonald describes her first step toward authorship as a moment in 1944 when her sister Mary breathlessly announced that a friend of hers, W e s t e r n A m e r i c a n L i t e r a t u r e 4 0 . 3 (Fa l l 2 0 0 5 ) : 2 3 7 -7 1 . 2 3 8 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e F a l l 2 0 0 5 a publisher’s representative from New York, would meet MacDonald at Seattle’s Olympic Hotel that afternoon to discuss her “new book” (249). MacDonald, who had no manuscript or even a notion of writing one, was tugged grudgingly toward her future by Mary’s regional chauvinism and relentless commitment to Betty’s latent talents: I said, “But I can’t write a book.” Mary said, “O f course you can, particularly when you stop to think that every publisher in the United States is simply dying for material about the Northwest.” “I never noticed it,” I said sullenly. Mary said, “Betty, listen to me. We are living in the last frontier in the United States. The land of the great salmon runs, giant firs, uncharted waters and unsealed mountains and almost nothing has been written about it. If you told the people in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 237-271
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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