cover image The Selected Letters of Wallace Stegner

The Selected Letters of Wallace Stegner

Wallace Earle Stegner, . . Shoemaker & Hoard, $30 (420pp) ISBN 978-1-59376-168-4

Throughout his life, Wallace Stegner (1909–1993)—a novelist, historian and environmental activist—maintained an active correspondence with family members, writers, critics, editors, biographers and conservationists. His son, Page (Grand Canyon: The Great Abyss ), has assembled a representative selection of letters and arranged them by theme: origins, reflections on his works, the literary life, his tenure at Stanford University (where he started the creative writing program in 1945) and his dedication to wilderness conservation. Whether responding to questions from his biographers, engaging in literary controversy, chiding a grandson about his faulty spelling and grammar or, in 1982, turning down a medal from the National Endowment for the Arts (which he felt was subject to too many political controls), Stegner is always attentive to the niceties of the writing craft, gracious and generous in his assessment of the achievements of others. The letters reveal much about his personal life and innermost thoughts, thus acting as a substitute for the autobiography he never wrote. Particularly illuminating are passages that give insight into the background of some of his books, including Angel of Repose , which won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1972, and The Uneasy Chair , his biography of historian and conservationist Bernard De Voto. (Nov.)