The Uneasy Chair: A Biography of Bernard de Voto (Paperback)

A Biography of Bernard de Voto

By Wallace Earle Stegner

Bison, 9780803292840, 496pp.

Publication Date: March 1, 2001



"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.

Praise For The Uneasy Chair: A Biography of Bernard de Voto

"Stegner''s ''valentine'' to his friend . . . captures the times in which he thrived—it''s a remarkable look at the literary politics of an era, and a man who found himself at its red-hot center."—Kirkus Reviews

"One of the best-written biographies . . . It consistently goes beyond the limits of its subject to illuminate what it meant to be a writer in the America of the ''30s, ''40s, and ''50s."—Time

"A battlefield panorama of the literary world from 1920 to 1955."—New York Times Book Review