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.
resources, their reserves of timber, their annual crop of water, their summer grazing (almost always too heavy), their trout-spawning streams, and their priceless and mushrooming value as places of outdoor recreation. But they are also vital for what they prevent. Forest Service lands lie almost entirely in the high country and its foothills, on the watersheds where the West’s life is made and stored, where floods begin, where erosion is most disastrous. Both watershed control and recreation are
of our superior airs. He is not annoyed by the transcribed commercial of the guide, nor by the tapestry which was woven by Don Quixote. He would be willing to buy the dollar postcards—not sold anywhere else—if we did not yank him away. Except in wet weather, which is notably infrequent, a desert dry lake is the best of all possible roads, and the one we meet at the top of Grapevine Pass is smooth as concrete and hard as rock. Driving on it is like cutting didoes on ice skates. In the middle of
reflect on those scientific friends of mine at M.I.T. and Harvard who are quite seriously stocking their Vermont farms against Armageddon, and it is a temptation to imagine that there might be sanctuary in this remote and beautiful canyon. But that lasts only thirty seconds. Out in the flood-swollen stream, snags and logs and drift go by, rocking in the swift water, circling with corpselike dignity in eddies and whirlpools, and as we watch we see a dead deer or sheep, its four stiff hooves in the
certain to be about his family or his boyhood, or an epic about how his corner of the continent was peopled and brought into the civilized world. Or maybe he has only written a story in a magazine and got a letter from a literary agent asking if he has a novel. Upon such an invitation from the great world, he will get to work on one: about his family or his boyhood or how his corner of the continent was peopled. This is all to the good. But even the smallest success makes his world too small for
bit as necessary as reform. Konrad Lorenz, the great student of animal behavior, has shown that personal affection, love, friendship, even the very fact of individuation, arise on this earth only in those species which by nature carry a heavy charge of aggression. In certain species of fish, lizards, and birds, as well as in mammals, love arises, literally, as a corrective of hate, which otherwise would lead mate to destroy mate, and the species to commit suicide. In species which do not achieve