The Uneasy Chair

A Biography of Bernard DeVoto

By Wallace Stegner
(Bison Books, Paperback, 9780803292840, 496pp.)

Publication Date: March 2001

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Description
"He was precocious, alert, intelligent, brash, challenging, irreverent, literary, self-conscious, insecure, often ostentatiously crude, sometimes insufferable," Wallace Stegner says of Bernard DeVoto, who, in the words of a childhood acquaintance, was also "the ugliest, most disagreeable boy you ever saw." Between the disagreeable boy and the literary lion, a life unfolds, full of comedy and drama, as told in this definitive biography, which brings together two exemplary American men of letters. Born within a dozen years of one another in small towns in Utah, both men were, as Stegner writes, "novelists by intention, teachers by necessity, and historians by the sheer compulsion of the region that shaped us." From this unique vantage point, Stegner follows DeVoto's path from his beloved but not particularly congenial Utah to the even less congenial Harvard where, galvanized by the disregard of the aesthetes around him, he commenced a career that, over three and a half decades, would embrace nearly every sort of literary enterprise: from modestly successful novels to prize-winning Western histories, from the editorship of the "Saturday Review" to a famously combative, long-running monthly column in "Harper's," "The Easy Chair." A nuanced portrait of a stormy literary life, Stegner's biography of DeVoto is also a window on the tumultuous world of American letters in the twentieth century.
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