1977 -- The Spectator Bird

For years I have wondered why no western writer has been able to make a continuity between the past and the present, why so many are sunk in the mythic twilight of the horse opera, why the various Wests seem to have produced no culture or literature comparable to those of New England, the South and the Midwest, why no westerner had managed to do for this territory what Faulkner did for Yoknapatawpha County.

—Wallace Stegner (“The West”)

“The Dean of Western Writers” took up his own challenge, the results still debated. While his western books earned him high praise in the west, the eastern critics often dismissed Stegner as merely a regionalist — or just ignored him altogether, the New York Review of Books having no comment whatsoever on his Pulitzer-winner, Angle of Repose, or his NBA-winner. Ironically, The Spectator Bird, set mostly in Denmark, is not one of Stegner’s western books; and doubly ironically, while the eastern critics ignored the book as if it was, many western critics complained that it wasn’t, and that Stegner had abandoned his true landscape and his own mandate.

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