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By Wallace Stegner

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This is a thoughtful book with a rich panoply of characters, both major and minor, and one that explores many themes, themes that bring the novel into the center of our culture. Like The Great Gatsby, it helps us define who we, as a people in this new land, are. Oliver in his gallant romanticism is our Gatsby, and Susan in her own romantic snobbish world is our Daisy, and ne’er the twain shall meet until at the end they find their angle of repose. We have all, to use Fitzgerald’s words, looked toward the “fresh, green breast of the New World,” and we all believe, or would like to believe, in the American Dream, although we each may define that dream in our own way.

Two periods in his growing up had a major influence on forming his outlook and interests. The first was his six years in childhood spent in the village of Eastend and every summer on the homestead farm in Saskatchewan near the Montana border. After the first year, his older brother, Cecil, got a summer job at the grocery store in town, and so Wallace was alone with his parents, out on the hot prairie, living in a tarpaper shack. ” And they would eventually produce a writer determined to represent the western experience as it really was, and the relationship of its people to the land as it was, is, and should be.

Meantime they will walk softly, speak quietly, rattle the oatbag gently, murmuring and moving closer until the arm can slide the rope over the stiff old neck and I can be led away to the old folks’ pasture down in Menlo Park where the care is so good and there is so much to keep the inmates busy and happy. If I remain stubborn, the decision may eventually have to be made for me, perhaps by computer. Who could argue with a computer? Rodman will punch all his data onto cards and feed them into his machine and it will tell us all it is time.

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