includes separate essays on extendednlyric celebration of some feature of thenWestern natural scene, along with sectionsnof larger chapters on how thisnimpulse mixes readily with other elementsnin the imaginative creations ofnWestern essayists, novelists, and poets.nThese writers make (in comparisonnwith other parts of our nation’s literature)na plethora of books on this theme,npresuming still a nature that is powerfulnin its own right and capable ofnenforcing its claims on our attentionnbecause they agree with Stegner thatnwilderness “was the challenge againstnwhich the character of our people wasnformed.” And for these writers, thenfrontier experience, even if only as anmemory, still signifies. In such a contextnthe whole person is engaged, notnjust the discursive reason. The challengenis not so much a matter ofnhistoric trends or social forces as it isnthe possibility of principled action proceedingnfrom individual choice. Thenassumption is that character countsneven though human beings must benrecognized for the elemental creaturesnthat they are, with no sentimentalitynexpended on the fact that they “are innconstant rebellion against the facts ofnexistence” — like the hero. Bo Mason,nin Stegner’s most important novel, ThenBig Rock Candy Mountain (1943).nOne may readily acquire some sensenof the special relation of Western accountsnof life in the wilderness with thenserious fiction written in or about thenregion by reading a good sample of thenmore than one hundred titles alreadynpublished for the Western Writers Seriesnat Boise State University, an exceptionalnmelange of pamphlets dealingnwith all kinds of Western literature.nEvidence of the species of direct experiencenunmediated by preconceptionnto be expected as part of the backgroundnof Western American literaturenshows up in the work of Frank Waters,nEdward Abbey, Jack Schaefer, MarinSandoz, Walter Van Tilburg Clark,nH.L. Davis, Stegner, and many others.nEven from the brief discussion in thenBoise State pamphlets considered as anseries, it is apparent that this literaturencould not exist without reserving ansignificant place for such an ingredient.nWhich keeps almost all of this writing,neven if opinionated and garrulous,nfrom being doctrinaire. For imaginingnthe West is an activity full of surprises.nmysteries, and unsettled questions —nlike a journey into territory for whichnthere are only a few maps, and none ofnthem dependable.nAlthough in Western American literaturenthe central negotiationnwith nature is private and individual, itnleads back to a recognition of the neednfor human society, for a common lifenand empathy with our own kind whonshare with us the problematical situationnwith which we all contend. An instancenof this close balance between personalneffort and social bond is in FredericknManfred’s Lord Grizzly (1954).nIn this carefully researched novelnabout the famous mountain man,nHugh Glass, the protagonist is maulednby a great bear and left for dead on thenplains. Filled with anger at being desertednby his hunting companions,nHugh struggles through unrelentingnpain some two hundred miles, back tonFt. Kiowa and shelter. As his ordealnbegins he is consumed with hatred fornthose who have abandoned him. Butnhe has a dream of another bear thatnfollows him — a benign, almost playfulnpresence — through the badlands towardnthe company of man. In thenprocess Glass comes to see a cowardlynpattern of desertion and isolationncaused by his own life and forgives hisn”boys” for what they have done out ofnfear. The new man who returns fromnthe wilderness is no longer the hunternwho would dominate and roam.nHugh’s strength to forgive is still annindividual strength — though in part anstrength to find God’s shadow or representativenhidden behind the particularsnof an immediate event. The intensitynof that experience is a preconditionnof the mountain man’s quasi-biblicalninterpretation of his own adventure;nand the Ghristian heritage in the booknis suggested mostly by narratives, notnabstract propositions — especially thenold story of Jacob, the angel, and theirncontest. Only this time there are twonbears instead of an angel.nBut as important as direct experiencenabsorbed without preconceptionnis for the writer of Western literature,nthe West as imaginative space andnpossibility is an even more importantnnotion for the interpretation of thisncorpus. To quote Wallace Stegnernonce more, this time from The Soundnof Mountain Water (1969), wildernessnnnis “the geography of hope.” And thencontinued existence of wilderness as ansignificant feature of the AmericannWest helps to sustain our corporatenrecollection of westering, of how thenold America found itself in that laborn— and found also a set of paradigmsnfor living. These forms for response tonchallenge have continued to be usefulnLIBERAL ARTSnMARITAL CASUALTIESnOF WARnAlthough military marriages have historicallynbeen vulnerable, the number ofndivorces around army bases has skyrocketednsince Operation Desert Storm.nNear Fort Riley, Kansas, 300 divorcencases were filed between January 1 andnMay 15, and 140 filed in the last twonweeks of May, when thousands of soldiersnreturned. Robert Dvorchak of thenAssociated Press quoted attorney SusannJacobson as saying, “It’s the untold story.nIn one two-week period, 1 percent of thenpopulation of Fort Riley filed for divorce.”nAt Fort Bragg, North Carolina,nhome of the 83 rd Airborne, divorcenlawyer Renee Rothrock said her businessnhas tripled to 300 cases in the twonmonths after the!return of the troops.nDivorces in the San Antonio area, wherenseveral military installations are located,njumped from 494 in December of 1990nto 840 last April. Around Fort Hood,nTexas, the Army’s largest base, 220 petitionsnwere filed in April, more than innany of the preceding 15 months. Muchnthe same has occurred around FortnCampbell, Kentucky, home of the 101stnAirborne Division, where the divorcenrate has risen 60 percent over last year.n”They come back to a great hero’snwelcome, and some of them get servedn[divorce papers] right at the homecoming,”nsaid Kay Terrill, a Lawton, Oklahoma,nattorney whose divorce casenload has increased more than 30 percentnsince April.nDvorchak quoted Preston Garrison,nexecutive director of the National MentalnHealth Association, as saying,n”What’s needed beyond the parades isnrecognition that there are normal andnnatural emotional stresses any time peoplenare removed from normal activitiesnand absent for a time.” His organizationnprinted a guidebook for returning veteransnentitled. After the Yellow RibbonsnCome Down, which has already gonenthrough its run of 25,000 copies sincenits publication last May.nNOVEMBER 1991/33n