In a literary career spanning more than fifty years, Wallace Stegner, winner of a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, has created a remarkable record of the history and culture of twentieth-century America. These thirty-one stories demonstrate why he is acclaimed as one of America's master storytellers.
Stegner’s stories roam about in age as well as place. He writes about the trauma of growing up (sometimes with an abusive father), becoming a man, and being a man once you’re grown. A boy suffers a cruel father in “Butcher Bird.” “The Colt” is a heartbreaking story of a boy and his doomed horse. A family deals with the consequences of insanity in the potentially dark “The Double Corner.” In “A Chip Off the Old Block” a boy must fend for himself when his family is quarantined with the flu as WWI ends.
“Saw Gang” portrays the companionship among men and the satisfaction of a hard day’s work. A young Englishman seeks adventure herding cattle in Saskatchewan in “Genesis.” He finds it and more, nearly dying during a harsh winter. Stegner describes the brutality of nature as well as the beauty. But here’s some beauty: “He saw all ahead of him the disk of the white and yellow world, the bowl of the colorless sky unbearable with light.”
Stegner addresses old-age as well as youth and middle age. In “Balance His, Swing Yours,” an older man despises what he has become, inconsequential in the eyes of youth. A man regrets lost opportunities in “Maiden in a Tower.”
Stegner writes beautifully of nature: “The air was so fresh that he sniffed at it as he would have sniffed at the smell of cinnamon.”
“They saw the wild wooded side of South Maid Hill, the maples stained with autumn, and far up, one scarlet tree like an incredible flower.”
“There had been a wind during the night, and all the loneliness of the world had swept up out of the southwest.”
The writing is clear and refreshing. Although from an earlier time it has aged well. Every story here is a joy to savor.