Wallace Stegner


Wallace Stegner

His Life and Work

Jackson J. Benson

504 pages
24 photographs


May 2009


$26.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In a career spanning more than fifty years, Wallace Stegner (1909–93) emerged as the greatest contemporary author of the American West—writing more than two dozen works of history, biography, essays, and fiction, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angle of Repose and the bestselling Crossing to Safety. Jackson J. Benson’s Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work is the first full-dress biography of this celebrated “Dean of Western Writers.”

Drawing on nearly ten years of research and unlimited access to Stegner’s letters and personal files, Benson traces the trajectory of Wallace Stegner’s life from his birth on his grandfather’s Iowa farm to his prominence as an award-winning writer, critic, historian, environmental activist, and teacher, and as founder of Stanford’s creative writing program.

But Benson’s book is as much a consideration of Stegner’s literary legacy as it is a retelling of his life. His critical reassessment of the entire body of Stegner’s work argues convincingly for his subject’s place in the literary canon—not merely as a “regional” Western writer but straightforwardly as one of the great American writers of the twentieth century.

Author Bio

Jackson J. Benson is a professor of English emeritus at San Diego State University. He is the author of several books, including The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer, The Ox-Bow Man: A Biography of Walter Van Tilburg Clark, and most recently, Under the Big Sky: A Biography of A. B. Guthrie Jr. (Nebraska 2009).


“In this engrossing work, Benson offers a portrait of a resilient truth-seeker, steadfast moralist, obsessive realist, and compassionate humanist who became the standard-bearer for western regionalist writing.”—Booklist

“Benson has written with admiration and fairness this first full-scale study of Stegner's life and accomplishments. . . . Highly recommended.”—Library Journal

"Benson is doing a fine job re-discovering Western writers."—California Territorial Quarterly

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Against the Grain--A Heritage of Integrity
1. The Last Homestead Frontier: A Prairie Childhood
2. From Primitive to Intellectual: The Education of Wallace Stegner
3. From Student to Professor: The Further Education of Wallace Stegner
4. Becoming a Novelist: Write a Novel and Win a Prize
5. Accomplished Writer, Harvard Teacher, and Friend to the Famous: What More Do You Need?
6. Hard Work at Harvard: Climbing the Big Rock Candy Mountain
7. Looking Back at the West From Cambridge
8. From the Fight Against Rugged Individualism to the Fight Against Prejudice and Racism
9. Back to Fiction, On to Stanford
10. Abandoning the Novel and Embracing the Short Story
11. From Short Story Writer to Environmentalist
12. To the Barricades for the Environment
13. Travel, Travel Literature, and the Search for Narrative Voice
14. An All-Star Cast
15. The Struggle to Locate Oneself
16. Historian and "Contemporary"
17. Trouble in the Sixties
18. A New Life
19. The Pulitzer and Beyond
20. Back to Biography and Another Prizewinning Novel
21. The Past That Comes Back to Haunt Us
22. Crossing to Safety
23. Giving All to Time
Notes and Documentation

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