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Wallace Stegner and the American West Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 12, 2008


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400043913
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400043910
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #560,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

Stegner, born in Iowa in 1909 and brought up on a Saskatchewan dirt farm, may have been our last frontier writer. As Fradkin notes in this astute biography, it was a miracle that he didn’t write pulp Westerns. Instead, Stegner took as his subject the failure of his father’s homestead, built on denial of the most fundamental Western reality: drought. Stegner’s fiction stalked the slow disintegration of the family as closely as previous potboilers tracked cattle; and he transformed his father’s subsequent rambles—bootlegging the family from the dry northern plains to drier Mormon counties—into a founding narrative stronger than any ultra-violent "revisionist" Western. Whether as novelist, conservationist, or teacher, Stegner showed how the West has "a way of warping well-carpentered habits, and raising the grain on exposed dreams."
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From Booklist

Environmental historian Fradkin’s previous books about the West focus on sagebrush and stagecoaches, earthquakes and rivers. He now portrays a western writer who mapped the paradoxes of the New West. Fradkin has a deep affinity for Wallace Stegner (1909–93) and makes superb use of Stegner’s evocative writing, including passages never before published. Adept at seeding every scene with myriad details, he follows Stegner from the Saskatchewan prairie, where nature was his narrative, to Utah, where he became a “public library addict.” Stegner’s prizewinning fiction comes under close scrutiny as Fradkin explicates Stegner’s profound insights into the way nature shapes the human condition. Fradkin writes with particular zest about Stegner’s conservation work with Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and the Sierra Club, and assesses the enormous influence of Stegner’s “environmental classic” Beyond the Hundredth Meridian (1954). Fradkin’s dynamic and probing portrait of Stegner brilliantly combines literary and environmental history, and provides a fresh and telling perspective on the rampant development of the arid West, and Stegner’s prophetic warnings of the complex consequences. --Donna Seaman

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Peter Richardson on March 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Philip Fradkin, a Los Angeles Times reporter turned environmental historian, has given us a skillful biography of an important novelist, teacher, essayist, and environmental activist. Despite a tough childhood roaming the hardscrabble northern prairies and intermountain West, Stegner earned a Ph.D., taught at Harvard, and established Stanford University's creative writing program just after World War II. That program assembled a long list of fabulously gifted writers, and well before Stegner left it in 1971, he and his students (Ken Kesey, Larry McMurtry, Robert Stone, Thomas McGuane, Edward Abbey, Evan Connell, etc.) were thoroughly reimagining the literary West. Fradkin's work complements two earlier biographies by shifting the focus from Stegner's literary achievement to "the whole man ... set against the passing backdrops of his life." The attention to place is fitting, and Fradkin expertly reveals a canny, forthright figure in twentieth-century American letters. Highly recommended.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Clendenin on April 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
In his autobiographical novel Recapitulation (1979), Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) wrote of his character that "all his earliest years in Salt Lake had been an effort, much of the time as unconscious as growth itself and yet always there as if willed, to outgrow what he was and become what he was not. A stray, he yearned to belong. An outsider and an isolate, he aspired to friends and family and the community solidarity he saw all around him in that Mormon city" (41). In this comprehensive biography of Stegner, published to coincide with the centennial of his birth and written with the full cooperation of Stegner's only child, Page, Philip Fradkin shows just how true that was of his subject.

Stegner's earliest years began in an orphanage in Seattle, the drought-stricken frontier prairie of Saskatchewan homesteaders, a year in Great Falls, Montana (where at age eleven he encountered his first flush toilet and bath tub), and then twelve years in Salt Lake City and the University of Utah: "the happiest years I ever knew or will know." His father was a gambler and a bootlegger who moved the family twenty times in ten years to avoid raids, a man with a violent temper who died in a murder-suicide. Stegner hated his father and inherited that temper. He was plagued by guilt over his mother's hard life, and devoted to Mary, his wife of fifty-nine years.

Later years took Stegner to Harvard and then Stanford, where he founded the creative writing program and nurtured future writers like Wendell Berry and Larry McMurtry. Although he lived in the Stanford area for almost fifty years, he felt alienated from the university by the time he left, and a bitter argument led him to donate his papers to the University of Utah.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sandy Greenblat on September 23, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
A simply marvelous work. It flows like a novel, contains references that enhance the work and never strays from the subject. Wonderfully executed. A very keen insight to a complex personality. It renewed my interest in reading the books by Stegner I haven't yet read and likewise, makes me want to read more of Philip Fradkin.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By V. Schaffer on November 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I had been an avid reader of Stegner for many years and lost all my books in the hurricane Iniki on Kauai. After reading this book, I'm buying all my old books again. This book, in providing the story of Stegner's life and career, and his writing, awakens the desire to re-read those books I've previously owned, and to read all the new stories I haven't. If you like Stegner, you should own and read this book.Wallace Stegner and the American West
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent biography. It covers all of the aspects of Stegner's life and is great reading. Along with his works, the book was extremely valuable for my book club presentation.
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