Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wallace Stegner Centennial

This NYT article marking what would have been author Wallace Stegner's 100th birthday bears the apt title of "Stegner's Complaint." It's a sad story that the legacy of a writer of his stature is inextricably linked with his neglect by the New York literary establishment. The concept of "regional" writers is something we've talked about a lot on this blog, maybe this marks another opportunity to continue that discussion.

I have to give the Times credit for running this, but choked on this paragraph:

"The fact that a writer of Stegner’s stature felt ghettoized with the dreaded tag of 'regional author' raises the question of whether our national literature is too tightly controlled by the so-called cultural elite – those people who talk to each other in some mythic Manhattan echo chamber."

My immediate reactions were - "What do you mean mythic?" and "Ya think?"

We're in the midst of a vast revolution in literature and media and it's obvious that many of the traditional gate-keepers to art are being swept away. Hopefully this sort of discussion will sound rather quaint 30 years from now.

4 comments:

LabRat said...

I skip anything beloved by that establishment more or less automatically by now; with rare exception, it's a guarantee I'll find absolutely nothing to identify with within its pages. It's like reading dispatches from an alien culture, except not as interesting.

Henry Chappell said...

When I was peddling my first book manuscript, an editor in New York (Steve, you know him) sent this rejection: "These are some of the strongest essays I've read. Unfortunately, you are a virtual unknown east of the Mississippi River.

Regional Writer. I wear the title with pride.

Chad Love said...

Mythic? Oh, that's a knee slapper...

So if Texas is regional then I guess that makes a place like Oklahoma, I dunno, sub-regional?

Steve Bodio said...

The same editor wanted to call Querencia "Route 60 East of Magdalena" (my then address) because he thought the sales people would think it was about Puerto Ricans (!) and not push it. I went elsewhere...

NOBODY is as provincial as a Manhattanite.