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Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in… (1992)

by Wallace Stegner

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6591028,441 (4)1 / 88
Nominated for a National Book Critics Circle award, "Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs" gathers together Wallace Stegner's most important and memorable writings on the American West: its landscapes, diverse history, and shifting identity; its beauty, fragility, and power. With subjects ranging from the writer's own "migrant childhood" to the need to protect what remains of the great western wilderness (which Stegner dubs "the geography of hope") to poignant profiles of western writers such as John Steinbeck and Norman Maclean, this collection is a riveting testament to the power of place. At the same time it communicates vividly the sensibility and range of this most gifted of American writers, historians, and environmentalists.… (more)
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  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
This collection of essays brings together sixteen essays, primarily published in the 1980s and 1990s, on Stegner's reflections of "living and writing in the West" as the subtitle expresses it. The first grouping includes personal reflections on Stegner's life growing up, the second reflect on the West as (an arid) place, and the third focuses on authors of the West and Stegner's take on their writing.

My reading of this collection suffered primarily from the fact that the only other book I have read by Wallace Stegner is Crossing to Safety, which was mentioned in some detail in the final essay and consequently is the one I liked the most. However, that's not to say that someone else couldn't get a lot out of it. I recommend reading Big Rock Candy Mountain in particular first, because it's mentioned often and in some ways is autobiographical. I also had a hard time with his essays on conservation, because I wondered to myself what had happened in the 30-odd years since he'd written, and had no personal memory of, say, water issues in the West in the 1980s. And finally, I had read very little of the books written about the west or by authors he admired, though that by far was my favorite section because I enjoy seeing what makes other readers tick. His essay written as a letter to Wendell Berry was fascinating, and made me want to track down some of Berry's fiction. Don't be discouraged from reading this collection by my lukewarm reaction. There's a lot to like, from his turns of phrase to his honesty of reflection on his own growing up, the West he loves so much, and the authors he admires. I think it would work best for readers familiar with much of his fiction already, and those somewhat conversant in the authors he discusses. ( )
  bell7 | Nov 28, 2020 |
Stegner's collection of essays on writing in the West, living in the West, writing about other writers writing in the West, and growing up in the West is cohesive and absorbing collection if you're interested in, you guessed it, the West. For the most part, the overlap and repetition is justified, but if you're looking for some standout pieces I'd recommend: "Striking the Rock" (on man's relationship to the land and the dominance of the hydraulic society); "Variations on a Theme By Crèvecoeur" (on the culture and an attitudes of the West, particularly, the difficulty in solidifying a distinct western culture); "The Sense of Place" (on man's relationship to the land, and the power of names); and "The Law of Nature and the Dream of Man" (on writing fiction). ( )
  b.masonjudy | Apr 3, 2020 |
I've grown to admire Stegner's writing, and have enjoyed four of his novels so far. This is my first taste of his purely non-fiction writings, a collection of previously published essays, revealing his deep feelings for his beloved West, its vaulted space and beauty, the difficult balance of human exploitation vs. preservation, it's literary distinctness. He has an agreeable style, frank and modest. He was firmly a writer whose fiction was always in close quarters with his own life experiences. Here we are privy to his beginnings, his impressive knowledge of western settlement and folklore, his thoughts on writers such as Steinbeck and the less-known George R Stewart. An indispensable collection from an American icon. ( )
1 vote ThoughtPolice | Oct 21, 2014 |
This is a collection of essays by Wallace Stegner, centered around growing up and living in the West, and discussions on some "Western" writers. I like Stegner's writing style, and I will read more of his books. But I had a difficult time with this book. I know essays are supposed to be based on personal opinion, but I didn't care for Stegner's attitude. His (inordinately high) opinion of the West seemed to preclude any good opinions of other parts of the country. For instance, I really like where I live, but I know it's not going to be for everyone. Stegner seemed to be saying that the West is the only good place to live. I also felt some discord with his constant complaining about how we've dammed all the rivers for power and to divert water to where the people lived, and yet he is still encouraging people to live there. It just rankled me.
However, I did enjoy his essays about the Western writers, and added several books to my reading list. I suspect I will prefer his fiction. ( )
1 vote tloeffler | May 28, 2010 |
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Nominated for a National Book Critics Circle award, "Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs" gathers together Wallace Stegner's most important and memorable writings on the American West: its landscapes, diverse history, and shifting identity; its beauty, fragility, and power. With subjects ranging from the writer's own "migrant childhood" to the need to protect what remains of the great western wilderness (which Stegner dubs "the geography of hope") to poignant profiles of western writers such as John Steinbeck and Norman Maclean, this collection is a riveting testament to the power of place. At the same time it communicates vividly the sensibility and range of this most gifted of American writers, historians, and environmentalists.

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