I caught the opening panel of the Stegner conference last night in Point Reyes. Super duper. First was a lasagna dinner at Toby's Feed Barn, where I ran into Jeff Lustig. Then we strolled over to the West Marin School gymnasium for the first panel.
When we got there, Robert Hass spoke, Michael Witt read a fine poem, and Mark Dowie presided over a panel of Stegner students and friends. In addition to fleshing out Philip Fradkin's storyline in Wallace Stegner and the American West, those recollections introduced me to the contrasting styles, interests, and life trajectories of the panelists. The only name I knew well before I arrived was William Kittredge, and I'd never seen or heard him speak before. Robert Stone was supposed to attend but had to cancel. Too bad, but the panel was superb anyway.
By utter coincidence, I met Margaretta Mitchell, whose husband Fred was once publisher of Ramparts. I also visited with Melody Graulich of Utah State University and the Western Literature Association, who will speak today.
By no coincidence at all, the Marin alternative weekly has a cover story on how West Marin became a literary mecca--the story is tied to the Stegner conference--and the Chronicle ran a big story this week, too. These guys know how to work it. And I checked the Bookscan numbers yesterday--Philip's book is off to a strong start.