What does it mean to be a westerner? With all the mythology that has grown up about the American West, is it even possible to describe "how it was, how it is, here, in the West—just that," in the words of Lynn Stegner? Starting with that challenge, Stegner and Russell Rowland invited several dozen members of the western literary tribe to write about living in the West and being a western writer in particular. West of 98 gathers sixty-six literary testimonies, in essays and poetry, from a stellar collection of writers who represent every state west of the 98th parallel—a kind of Greek chorus of the most prominent voices in western literature today, who seek to "characterize the West as each of us grew to know it, and, equally important, the West that is still becoming."
In West of 98, western writers speak to the ways in which the West imprints itself on the people who live there, as well as how the people of the West create the personality of the region. The writers explore the western landscape—how it has been revered and abused across centuries—and the inescapable limitations its aridity puts on all dreams of conquest and development. They dismantle the boosterism of manifest destiny and the cowboy and mountain man ethos of every-man-for-himself, and show instead how we must create new narratives of cooperation if we are to survive in this spare and beautiful country. The writers seek to define the essence of both actual and metaphoric wilderness as they journey toward a West that might honestly be called home.
A collective declaration not of our independence but of our interdependence with the land and with each other, West of 98 opens up a whole new panorama of the western experience.
Lynn Stegner is the author of four works of fiction, three of them novels—Because a Fire Was in My Head (which won the Faulkner Award for Best Novel and was a Literary Ventures Selection, a Book Sense Pick, and a New York Times Editors' Choice), Undertow, and Fata Morgana—and the novella triptych Pipers at the Gates of Dawn (Faulkner Society Gold Medal in the novella category).
Russell Rowland has published two novels: In Open Spaces, which earned a starred review from Publisher's Weekly and made the San Francisco Chronicle's Bestseller List, and The Watershed Years, which was a finalist for the High Plains Book Award for fiction.
One of the glories of this book is that it is host to 67 writers...Voices and viewpoints are left out, but that does not diminish the value and pleasure of West of 98.
Introduction by Lynn Stegner
Louise Erdrich, Big Grass
Larry Woiwode, Wealth of the West
Larry Watson, Whose West? Which West? West of What?
Dan O'Brien, Viewed from Ground Level
Kent Meyers, Naked Time
Ron Hansen, Why the West?
Jonis Agee, The Fence
Antonya Nelson, Two or Three Places
Rick Bass, The Light at the Bottom of the Mind
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, Points
Jim Barnes, Between the Sans Bois and the Kiamichi
Larry McMurtry, Excerpt from Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen
John Clayton, The Native Home of Governors on Horseback
Willard Wyman, The Way Home
Melissa Kwasny, The Imaginary Book of Cave Paintings
Walter Kirn, Livingston Blows
William Kittredge, Where Should We Be?
Alyson Hagy, Self-Portrait as the Strong and Silent Type
Kenneth Lincoln, Blood West
Lee Ann Roripaugh, Motherlands and Mother Tongues: Five Reflections on Language and Landscape
C. J. Box, Blame It on Rancho Deluxe
Teresa Jordan, The Conceit of Girls
Beth Loffreda, Pinus Contorta
Gretel Ehrlich, Where the Burn Meets the Dead
Stephen Graham Jones, Two Illustrations of the West, the first being second-hand, the second first
Laura Pritchett, Cowboy Up, Cupcake? No Thanks
Patricia Nelson Limerick, The Fatal West
Page Lambert, A Shape-Shifting Land
Tom Miller, Moving West, Writing East
Gary Nabhan, Tasting a Sense of Place in the Arid West
Denise Chávez, Entre Mundos/Between Worlds
David Lee, Matins in the Cathedral of Wind
Kim Barnes, On Language: A Short Meditation
Ron Carlson, Utah Cabin Under Heaven, July 3
Debra Gwartney, Plucked from the Grave
Robert Wrigley, Two Poems
Stephen Trimble, Tumbling Toward the Sea
Terry Tempest Williams, Friendship
Amy Irvine, Red
Jim Hepworth, Growing Up Western
Charles Bowden, No Direction Home
Sally Denton, Beyond This Place There Be Dragons
Douglas Unger, City of Nomads, City of Second Chances
Ursula K. Le Guin, Places Names
John Daniel, East to the West
David Guterson, Three Poems
Craig Lesley, Celilo Falls
Barry Lopez, A Dark Light in the West: Racism and Reconciliation
David Mas Masumoto, Dirty Stories
Gary Snyder, Two Poems: The Black-tailed Hare
Covers the Ground
Louis B. Jones, "It's Like They Tilted the Whole Country East-to-West. And Everything that Wasn't Tied-Down Slid"
Peter Fish, Star Struck
Maxine Hong Kingston, Dias de los Muertos
Harold Gilliam, The San Francisco Psyche
Jane Hirshfield, Three Poems
The Supple Deer
Building and Earthquake
The Dark Hour
Greg Sarris, Maria Evangeliste
Kris Saknussemm, Headed
Page Stegner, The Sense of No Place
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