would likely be required reading in thatnsurvey as well.nThe time has come to stop speakingnof Western American literature at all.nThe term has increasingly little meaningnexcept as a buzzword for critics fornwhom “the new regionalism” is indeednnew; it evokes not Thomas McGuanenbut ten-gallon hats, high noon and notnten seconds till midnight, and it willnnot suffice. Not long before his deathnlast year A.B. Guthrie remarked that “angood book is not ‘regional.’ It is a goodnbook because it is a good book. . . .nWilliam Faulkner and Eudora Weltynweren’t regional writers.” Soundnwords, surely. But, Guthrie went on tonadd, “Trying to fight the [Western]nmyth, I tell you, is a losing fight. I’mnafraid people want to think about thenWest in terms of Tombstone.” Theynwill do so as long as the categories bynwhich writing set outside the Boston-nWashington corridor is arranged remainnfixed in booksellers’ racks, publishers’nlists, and college offerings.nSequester Gary Snyder, GretelnEhrlich, Leslie Silko, Frank Waters,nBarry Lopez, Terry Tempest Williams,nAmy Tan, Rick Bass, and Rolandon• Hinojosa-Smith in a room and you’dnsurely get lively discussion about thenWest as a place and as a source ofninspiration. You would not, however.n48/CHRONICLESnLIBERAL ARTSnA FAMILY MAN WITH ANnAPPETITE FOR WOMENnbe left with a literature in the sense of,nsay, the cocktail-circuit New YorknSchool of poets, and surely not of thenfisticuffs of Norman Mailer and GorenVidal battling one another in a city andnculture far, far away. If writing thatnmerely happens to be set in the West isnof a superior quality, then we arenproperly addressing American literature,nperiod. (As long, that is, as thencanon-busters permit the notion ofnAmerican literature itself to stand.)nSuch distinctions are never likely tonmake their way into the consciousnessnof the trans-Fall Line East, where thenimportant cultural decisions are made.nA region can be a center; in the case ofnWestern writers, it’s a corral with a gatenthat can’t be kicked open, as claustrophobicallynconfining as one of Don DenLillo’s Manhattan lofts. Just as thenAmerican West remains an economicncolony, it is sure to remain a culturalncolony as well, the source of comfortingnmortal tales of civilization’s progressnfor Atlantic seaboard living rooms.nHis Bill of Rights daily erodes, butnJefferson’s survey of the Americannlandscape endures.nGregory McNamee is anfreelance writer and editornliving in Tucson,nArizona.nAs Los Angeles Times reporter Paul Richter wrote on Junen7, “At 59, [Edward] Kennedy is the patriarch of a legendarynpolitical family, standard-bearer of American liberalism,nconscientious family man and lawmaker with few peers. Henis also, in some portraits, a man of flawed judgment with annappetite for women, liquor and ostentatious risks.”n—from Notable Quotables of the MedianResearch Center, June 24, J 99JnnnNotes From anWriter of Trashnby Richard S. WheelernThe most important datum aboutnWestern fiction is that it is at thenabsolute bottom of the literary heap,nsomewhere below pornography. Englishnprofessors would cavil at callingnWesterns literature; they prefer to categorizenWesterns as subliterature, or entertainment.nFew, if any, educated people readnWesterns. The higher the cultural andnacademic attainments of the reader, thenless likely he will be to crack one open.nHe will read other category fiction, suchnas mysteries or science fiction, withoutnembarrassment. But you will neverncatch him reading Westerns. Westernsnsell least well in the upper Midwest andnEast, the areas with the largest numbersnof college-educated people. They sellnbest across the South and in the RockynMountain states, where tastes are thenmost primitive. They sell around militarynbases, a sure sign that they appeal tonthe semiliterate. It is known also thatnWesterns appeal most to graying males,nyeoman blue-collar types who havennever gone beyond high school, allegedlynthe least imaginative and progressivenelements in society.nBecause Westerns are not considerednsignificant literature, they are not usuallynreviewed. Most newspaper editors ofnthe book page have never assigned ancategory Western for review. The LibrarynJournal and Kirkus review a fewnhardback Westerns for the edificationnof librarians, but that is about thenextent of attention paid to categorynWestern fiction. You will find nothingnabout Westerns or those who writenthem in book news columns. You willnnot see Western authors on TV ornradio talk shows. Western authors arennever lionized at parties, and acquirenno groupies, fans, or imitators. You willnnot find Western authors at the NationalnBook Awards. They are nevernasked to lecture at great universitiesnand neither do they become adjunctnprofessors. Here and there you’ll find.ncollege courses on Western fiction, butnit usually turns out that the professorndidn’t mean that kind of Western fiction;nhe meant Wallace Stegner andnEdward Abbey and Tom McGuanenand James Welch and Louise Erdrich.n