West of 98 by Lynn Stegner
Living and Writing the New American West

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Synopsis

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.

 

About Lynn Stegner

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LYNN STEGNER is the author of Fata Morgana (1995) and Undertow (1993), both nominated for the National Book Award. Two of the stories in this book have received several awards and honors, including the Faulkner Society's Gold Medal. Stegner divides her time between Santa Cruz, California, where she teaches periodically at the University of California, and northeastern Vermont. Born in Bozeman, Russell Rowland is a fourth-generation Montanan. He served in the Navy, and has worked as a teacher, ranch hand, surveyor, lounge singer, and fortune-cookie writer. He lives in San Francisco.
 
Published September 1, 2011 by University of Texas Press. 418 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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That said, there are some excellent pieces here, including a standout essay by Jim Hepworth on growing up in a broken home among Blackfoot Indian basketball whizzes in a place where “the moonless sky above us stretched from horizon to horizon as black as the Lone Ranger’s mask, but it was also a ...

Sep 01 2011 | Read Full Review of West of 98: Living and Writin...

Dallas News

The essayists featured in West of 98, which the novelist Rowland edited with Lynn Stegner, are of a more law-abiding sort than the characters in Best of the West.

Dec 23 2011 | Read Full Review of West of 98: Living and Writin...

Red Room

A declaration not of our independence this time, but of our interdependence.” What Stegner and Rowland got were 67 writers — most of them all-stars in contemporary west-of-the-Mississippi literature and each with a distinct and often contradictory perspective on what it means to live “west of th...

Oct 23 2011 | Read Full Review of West of 98: Living and Writin...

High Country News

West of 98 strives to put into context the post-colonization of the American West, a region 100 years young that "is still becoming."

Feb 20 2012 | Read Full Review of West of 98: Living and Writin...

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