PERSPECTIVEnWestern Is as Western Doesn* ^ “P eople first, place second,” William Faulkner wrote;nJ. while Ford Madox Ford — whose last book was ThenMarch of Literature, described by its author as a survey ofnworld literature from Confucius to Conrad—believed thatngreat writing transcended not only national and culturalnboundaries but those of time itself. There is, nevertheless,ndescribably such a thing as English or Russian or French ornAmerican literature; and, within the last category. NewnEngland and Southern and Western literature, provided wendo not attempt to define these according to preconceivednnotions but are willing to take them as we find them, whilenrecognizing that they are marked by generalized characteristicsnshared by the individual works to a greater or lesserndegree. For the most part, any debate concerning what isnand what is not a “Southern” or a “Western” novel is almostncertain to be as trivial as it is futile and boring, but that doesnnot mean that the Southern or Western novel does not exist.nIn the present number oi Chronicles, the subject of whichnis Western writing, Gregory McNamee considers the questionnof the American West as a literary colony of thenAmerican East. He means by this the exploitation bynEastern publishers and readers of the Westerner’s portion ofnthe raw material of experience that is the literary capital ofnany literary tradition, but there is another sense as well innwhich the East may be said to have colonized the West, andnthat is by the great number of writers it has exported here.n”Like most literary Westerners,” Edward Abbey wrote ofnMary Austin, “[she] was born in the east — east of thenMississippi. . . .” He was right, of course. What J. GordonnCoogler wrote exaggeratedly of the South (“Alas, for thenSouth! Her books have grown fewer— / She never wasnmuch given to literature”) is, in its second line if not in itsnChilton Williamson, Jr. is senior editor for books atnChronicles.n12/CHRONICLESnby Chilton Williamson, Jr.nnnfirst one, a fair description of the West, where for reasonsnthat are wholly understandable people have historically hadnlittle time to spare for the bozart. Abbey himself was a nativenof Home, Pennsylvania; and from Owen Wister to ThomasnMcGuane —but excluding Wallace Stegner and A.B.nGuthrie, Jr., Harvey Fergusson and Eugene ManlovenRhodes—your typical Western writer is an Easterner innbison’s clothing. On the other hand, Willa Gather, whongrew up in Nebraska, moved to New York City where shenlived in Greenwich Village for the rest of her life andnbecame an opera fan. Are we therefore to consider thenauthor of O Pioneers! an Eastern writer? You tell me: I don’tnknow, and frankly I don’t care. So far as I am concerned,nwhat has a Western setting, derives from Western experience,nand is written by somebody who has actually set footnin the West is Western literature —provided, of course, thatnit is literature at all.nIt is Western experience, finally, that most distinguishesnWestern from other categories of American literature; and itnis primarily that experience, rather than the literary treatmentnof it, that has denied it, especially in the East, thenwider readership that it had lost by the time of the youngnWallace Stegner and perhaps as early as the heyday of FranknNorris. Long before the earliest of the stock-in-trade “Westerns”nappeared, Mark Twain’s Roughing It and Bret Harte’snstories were major publishing successes along the Northeastnseaboard, which had not yet developed its prissy distaste fornlife as it is lived west of the Delaware River. The rise of then”Western” novel, intervening between Stephen Crane’sncareer and Willa Gather’s, has been blamed for alienatingnEastern (meaning “sophisticated”) sensibilities from allnWestern writing, but even if that were so it is insufficientnexplanation for the endemic uninterest of back-East folk innevery aspect of Western culture and history, except thosenwhich (like environmental damage or race relations on then