Sound of Mountain Water
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The essays, memoirs, letters, and speeches in this volume were written over a period of twenty-five years, a time in which the West witnessed rapid changes to its cultural and natural heritage, and Wallace Stegner emerged as an important conservationist and novelist. This collection is divided into two sections: the first features eloquent sketches of the West's history and environment, directing our imagination to the sublime beauty of such places as San Juan and Glen Canyon; the concluding section examines the state of Western literature, of the mythical past versus the diminished present, and analyzes the difficulties facing any contemporary Western writer. The Sound of Mountain Water is both a hymn to the Western landscape, an affirmation of the hope embodied therein, and a careful investigation of the West's cultural and natural legacy.
country in eastern Utah. There was the climb between Cheyenne and Laramie where the Lincoln Highway crawled up from the high plains to the Wyoming Plateau; there was San Marcos, switching across the Santa Ynez Mountains and breaking suddenly out high above the long lacy shoreline and peopled rivieras of Santa Barbara; there were little-known dirt-road passes like the Seven-Mile Canyon road over the Fish Lake Hightop to Salina, in south-central Utah—a pass that in the late mountain spring was so
Company erected Fort Union at the mouth of the Yellowstone. This was for a time the ultimate outpost of the raiders in a hostile country. But the trade was already shifting westward, away from the Missouri River which was so unreliable and dangerous a highway, with so many belligerent tribes in a constant boil along its banks. Soon the raiders would operate without bases, and in their wanderings they would locate a road. Wilson Price Hunt led his fifty Astorians down the Snake and the Columbia in
God damned thought.… With thirteen million words written or by our lady two score million, we have now accounted for 229 years that do not enter at all into my book and have only forty more years to go, or say an even million words, if in the meantime I can learn something about concentration … before we reach the beginning of my book and, with a sigh of infinite satisfaction and a suffusing glow of happy realization that only ten million words lie ahead, take up a blank, virgin sheet of paper
knaves or fools; and however ironic and detached he tried to be, he could become a Galahad in a cause that enlisted as much of him as did the conservation and public lands fights of the late 1940’s and 1950’s. He began and remained an unfriendly critic of Mormonism, but his half-Mormon heritage and background had bred a good deal of Mormon moralizing into him. Even his peculiar brand of eloquence, at once biblical, orotund, and salty, is related to the eloquence of some celebrated Mormon
snails and puppy dogs’ tails, as real an ingredient as the irritable idealism and the scorn and the skinless self-doubt, would be a belligerent professionalism. He would pride himself on being a pro, would wear the discipline of deadlines and editorial specifications like a hair shirt, because he despised literary phonies, narcissistic artists, public confessors, gushers, long-hairs, and writers of deathless prose; and he would despise these because he feared them in himself. All through Benny’s