Wallace Stegner

Hailed as “The Dean of Western Writers,” Wallace Earle Stegner made his mark on American literature not only through his own extensive works of fiction, histories, biographies and short stories, but through his mentorship of other literary and cultural figures, including Wendell Berry, Sandra Day O'Connor, Edward Abbey, Thomas McGuane, Robert Stone, Ken Kesey, Gordon Lish, Ernest Gaines and Larry McMurtry.  

Stegner was born on February 18, 1909 in Lake Mills, Iowa to Hilda and George Stegner, and lived in various places around the country growing up, spending a good portion of his childhood and young adulthood in Utah. He received a BA from the University of Utah in 1930, and went on to receive his master’s and doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1932 and 1935, respectively. Over the course of his life, Stegner taught at the University of Wisconsin, Harvard University, and Stanford University, where he helped establish Stanford’s lauded creative writing program.

In an “Art of Fiction” interview with The Paris Review, Stegner asserted that he became an author “by sheerest accident,” initially only dabbling in short fiction while an undergraduate. Two years after earning his PhD, however, Stegner won the Little-Brown Prize for his book Remembering Laughter (1937), which allowed him to devote his time to writing. His success as a writer led him to teaching composition at Harvard University, during which he wrote his semi-autobiographical novel The Big Rock Candy Mountain (1943). He then went on to Stanford in 1946, where he stayed until he retired in 1971.

Stegner’s fiction and nonfiction focus mainly on the West, and profoundly reflect his environmentalist causes and interest in conservation. In interviews and essays about his work, critics noted that Stegner’s novels often blur history with fiction, and are often more sympathetic to their female characters, something Stegner himself admitted to being the likely result of his strong relationship with his mother and his troubled experience with a volatile, abusive father who committed suicide after murdering his mistress. Many of his works contained characters who resembled his father—perhaps a way of processing his early experiences within his family. 

Stegner won a Pulitzer Prize for Angle of Repose in 1972 and a National Book Award in 1977 for The Spectator Bird. In 1990, Stegner received a lifetime achievement award from PEN USA Center West. The same year, he also received a senior fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, in recognition for his contributions to American literature. In May 1992, he refused a National Medal for the Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts, saying in a letter he mailed to the organization that he was "troubled by the political controls placed upon the agency."  

Stegner’s family included his wife of 59 years, Mary Stuart Page, and his son, Page. Stegner died in a car accident on April 13, 1993, at the age of 84. 

 

Bibliography

Novels

  • Remembering Laughter, Little Brown & Co (Boston, MA), 1937
  • The Potter's House, The Prairie Press (Paris, IL), 1938
  • On a Darkling Plain, Harcourt, Brace and Co (New York, NY), 1940
  • Fire and Ice, Duell Sloan & Pearce (New York, NY), 1941
  • The Big Rock Candy Mountain, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1943
  • Second Growth, Houghton Mifflin Co. (Boston, MA), 1947
  • The Preacher and the Slave, Houghton Mifflin Co. (Boston, MA), 1950
  • A Shooting Star, Viking Press (New York, NY), 1961
  • All the Little Live Things, Viking Press (New York, NY), 1967
  • Joe Hill: A Biographical Novel, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1969
  • Angle of Repose, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1971
  • The Spectator Bird, Franklin Library (Minneapolis, MN), 1976
  • Recapitulation, Franklin Library (Minneapolis, MN), 1979
  • Crossing to Safety, Modern Library (New York, NY), 1987

Collections

  • The Women on the Wall, Houghton Mifflin Co. (Boston, MA), 1950
  • The City of the Living: And Other Stories (1957)
  • Writer's Art: A Collection of Short Stories, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1972
  • One Way to Spell Man: Essays with a Western Bias, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1982
  • The American West as Living Space, (University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, WI), 1987 
  • Collected Stories of Wallace Stegner, Random House (New York, NY), 1990
  • Late Harvest: Rural American Writing, Paragon House (St Paul, MN), 1996

Chapbooks

  • Genesis: A Story from Wolf Willow, NorthWord Press (Minocqua, WI), 1994

Nonfiction

  • Clarence Edward Dutton: An Appraisal, University of Utah Press (Salt Lake City, UT), 1936
  • Mormon Country, Duell Sloan & Pearce (New York, NY), 1942
  • One Nation, Houghton Mifflin Co. (Boston, MA), 1945
  • Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West, Houghton Mifflin Co. (Boston, MA), 1954
  • Wolf Willow: A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier, The Viking Press (New York, NY), 1962
  • The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail, McGraw -Hill (New York, NY), 1964
  • Teaching the Short Story, National Council of Teachers (Urbana, IL), 1966
  • The Sound of Mountain Water, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1969
  • Discovery! The Search for Arabian Oil, Selwa Press (1971)
  • The Uneasy Chair: A Biography of Bernard DeVoto, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1974
  • Writer in America, White/Walnut Valley Books (Winfield, KS), 1982
  • Conversations with Wallace Stegner on Western History and Literature, University of Utah Press (Salt Lake City, UT), 1983
  • This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and its Magic Rivers, Alfred A Knopf (New York, NY), 1985
  • American Places, Random House Value Publishing (New York, NY), 1985
  • On the Teaching of Creative Writing, Montgomery Endowment, Dartmouth College (Dartmouth, NH), 1988
  • Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West, Random House (New York, NY), 1992

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