What a warm, wonderful evening we spent on Saturday, November 3rd, with Page Stegner. He was in Salt Lake to debut his new book, The Selected Letters of Wallace Stegner. Reading to a packed house, Page chose several letters to share with us including one from 1992 that Stegner wrote to Susan Houston of the National Endowment for the Arts. President George H. W. Bush had nominated him for a Lifetime Achievement Award and his letter explained why he was declining the award saying, “I am troubled by the political controls place upon the agency.”
His early letters to his girlfriend Sarah Barnard were charming and funny but it’s a letter to his soon to be wife, Mary Page that was the high point. He pleaded, “Love me, darling, in spite of the fact that I’m screwy. If the time comes soon when we can be together for good, the first thing I am going to do is make you go walking with me in a thunderstorm, and the next thing is, love you physically, mentally, and spiritually until you know how much I love your warmth, your actualness, your intelligence, your sunshiny affection.”
The final question of the night was, “What would your father be thinking if he were alive today?” Page shrugged slowly and said, “The geography of despair”.