frontier) can be exploited for ideological purposes. Aboutnten years ago, I read a statement by John Updike to theneifect that, for the sake of his art, every serious writer shouldnreside in the Northeast, since no other part of the UnitednStates offers him the material from which to create masterpieces.nThere, in a nutshell, I am afraid, Updike put it all.nToday, the only Western writers to whom the Easternnliterary establishment pays attention are Native Americansnlike Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris or those of its starsnwho have eccentrically moved West, such as Richard Ford ornTom McGuane. (McGuane, incidentally, although some ofnhis best work has been done on Montanan themes and withnMontanan settings, seems to receive far less attentionnnowadays than he did in the 1960’s and early 70’s, when henwas living in and writing about Key West.) In this respectnIvan Doig, a native of Montana and the son of a sheepherdernthough he migrated to Seattle many years ago, is annimportant though inexplicable exception.nIn 1989, A. Carl Bredahl, Jr. — another contributor tonthis issue — published a brilliant monograph called NewnGround: Western American Narrative and the LiterarynCanon, where he argued that Western literature differsnsignificantiy from Northeastern and Southeastern Americannliterature in its regard for “surface,” meaning not justnlandscape and physical contact but the sheer literalness ofnhuman experience, which needs to be valued for itself andnnot as a metaphor for something else. In my review of thenbook in Chronicles, I agreed substantially with this readingnof the literature of Western America, but did not find thenessential quality Bredahl identified in it to be whollynpraiseworthy. What I meant to suggest was that life, whethernlived in the West or in the East or in Addis Ababa, hasndepths below the surface, and that it is one of the triumphsnof literature not just to suggest these but to mirror them bynmeans of receding poetic images. To be able to do this, ofncourse, requires a considerable literary technique of a kindnwith which poets have for millennia been familiar, but whichnnovelists, as practitioners of a far more recent art, did notndiscover until the end of the 19th century. It is a techniquenthat Western literature has conspicuously lacked, and that itnseems a shame to deprive it of on purely theoretical grounds.nAstonishingly, the one Western writer I can think of besidesnStephen Crane, Thomas McGuane, and Cormac McCarthyn(author of Blood Meridian) who managed to achievensuch sophistication is Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose work isnthought to be for children but who wrote sentences,nparagraphs, and scenes rivaling those of Ernest Hemingwaynin their subtle evocation of emotional depths and complexitiesnpresented with a deceptive clarity. (I have more to say innthis issue on the subject of Laura Wilder, whose books Inhave been reading and rereading since I was five years old.)nIsense, however, that the time for the development of anhigher literary sensibility in Western writing is past.nEastern publishers and Eastern audiences having shownnthemselves largely indifferent to any Western aspirations,nand Western writers themselves being apparently contentnwith the presentation of “surface.” For Western men ofnletters, the material, not the medium, continues as ever to benthe main thing. So be it, then, since the material is richnindeed and much of the writing powerful, even masterful.nAnd it is refreshing to find a substantial body of literaturenupon which the influence of Virginia Woolf has had nonimpact whatever. Still, it is in part this final disinterest innartistic formalism that is leading the Western canon tondisintegration under the distractions of Western aboriginalnand ethnic literature, and the literature of the paganizednWestern nature essay, strongly pushed of course by environmentalism.nWestern-Western writing — meaning writingnfrom the American West out of the tradition of Westernncivilization — may be almost at an end as Professor Bredahl’snessay here suggests, at least to me.nAnother suggestion that this could be the case is offerednby Texas Christian University’s gigantic — and giganticallynuseful — text, A Literary History of the American West,nsponsored by the Western Literature Association and publishednin 1987. Nearly all of the essays it comprises are solidnand informative, but the final third of the book (organizationallynspeaking) leads me to conclude that the contemporarynattempt at inclusivity promises to explode the conceptnof Western literature as we know it and to redefine it solelynaccording to a mere geographical definition that is meaningless.n”Western American Indian Writers” . . .”AmericannIndian Fiction” . . .”Early Mexican-American Literature”n. . .”Contemporary Mexican-American Literature” . . .n”Asian-American Literary Traditions” . . .”Afro-AmericannWriters in the West” . . .”Scandinavian Immigrant Literature”:nall worthy and interesting subjects in themselves, Inguess, but what does any of them have in common with thenwork of John Wesley Powell, Mark Twain, Stephen Crane,nOwen Wister, Willa Gather, Laura Ingalls Wilder, ZanenGrey, Wallace Stegner, A.B. Guthrie, Jr., Edward Abbey,nand Thomas McGuane? A cohesive literature, after all,nthough it will certainly have its wide-ranging influences, isnalways the product of one culture, not of many.nChiefly because it is a fine story, but parfly also because itndemonstrates how foreign influences can be brought successfullynto bear in the work of a writer secure neverthelessnwithin his own culture, I have chosen Kent Nelson’s “ThenGarden of Alejandra Ruiz” for inclusion in this issue.nNelson, a native of Ouray, Colorado, now resident in NewnHampshire, is the author of several novels and an accomplishednshort fiction writer whose work first came to mynattention in the Sewanee Review. And Stephen Bodio, likenmyself a refugee from the urban East, who came to rest innMagdalena, New Mexico, an easy 17-hours’ drive bynWestern standards from my home in Kemmerer, Wyoming,nis in many ways the very model of a modern Western author.nFor one thing, he was born in Boston. For another, he hasnresponded to Western people. Western habits, Westernnlandscapes, and Western values as only a born writer and anspiritual Westerner could do. Nobody has ever learned towritenabout the American West better, more strongly, andnmore poignanfly than Steve Bodio has taught himself to do.nHis memoir of the first seven years in Magdalena —nQuerencia, published last spring by Clark City Press innLivingston, Montana — is a brief masterpiece left untouched,nnaturally, by the New York publishers.nSince M.E. Bradford and, much more recentiy, RichardnWheeler are already known to readers of Chronicles, I amngoing to let them proceed without further introduction.nnnnNOVEMBER 1991/13n