James M. Dourgarian, Bookman
1595-A Third Avenue
Walnut Creek, CA 94597

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Established 1980
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James M. Dourgarian, Bookman, was established in 1980. We are members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA). Like all ABAA members, we answer to a higher authority and follow a higher standard of ethics that guarantees a successful transaction for all our customers.

We buy and sell old books, vintage books, collectible books, rare books, first edition books, and related ephemera. We maintain several specialties. Among them are American fiction first editions from c.1900 to the present. Within that general field, we have heavy emphasis in John Steinbeck and Steinbeckiana. Thus, we buy and sell Steinbeck primary first editions in dust jackets, signed/limited editions, his appearances in anthologies, his periodical appearances, books and periodicals about Steinbeck, film and theatre memorabilia, bibliographies, and miscellaneous items.

We also specialize in these same categories for these authors -- Jack London, Wallace Stegner, and Stephen King. Other specialties include Western Americana, books on California and the West, books on Japan, China, and the Orient, and Armed Services Editions. The latter are vintage paperbacks issued to American GIs from 1943 to 1947. They are comprised of mysteries, Westerns, science fiction and fantasy, mainstream fiction, historical novels, science, poetry, adventure stories, and more.

Within our field of modern first editions, we also sell related film memorabilia. Thus, we sell film posters, lobby card sets, pressbooks, stills, scripts, etc. for films made from the works of authors we carry such as John Steinbeck, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Raymond Chandler, Zane Grey, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Stephen King, Edward Abbey, Anne Rice, and many others.

Wallace Stegner

Excerpts from our 1994 Catalog
dedicated to Wallace Stegner

Wallace Stegner, A Collector's Friendship
by James M. Dourgarian

Wallace Stegner: A Remembrance
by his daughter-in-law
Lynn Stegner

View our Stegner Items

Wallace Stegner
February 18, 1909 -- April 13, 1993

Introduction to our 1994 catalog dedicated to Wallace Stegner

I suppose it was inevitable that I would issue a catalogue so populated by Wallace Stegner -- his books, anthologies, magazine appearances -- virtually by his presence.

Nearly all the signed items in the catalog were brought to him by me. They were lovingly placed into his hands. Some he signed quickly. Others he considered at some length, remembering a connected story. Most of the memories were good. Being with him, being charmed by the man and our shared experience gave me some of the great times of my life.

I have yet to meet anyone who knew Wally who wasn't profoundly affected by him. The stories we tell, as you will see, are remarkably similar. He was charming, witty, learned, funny, adaptable, hardy, intelligent, giving. Indeed, he was the most giving man I ever knew. He was very much like the West, where he often lived, and about which he often wrote.

It had been one year since Wallace Stegner died. So, in his memory, I developed a catalogue devoted to him and blended it with essays about him.

I cannot well enough express my thanks and gratitude to those who helped make the catalogue possible. They include the participants, Wendell Berry, Lynn Stegner, Leo Holub, and Richard Kurtz. They also include friends and bibliophiles such as Melinda Gray, Jacqueline Koenig, Graham Wilson, and my daughter, Tracy.

Wallace Stegner, A Collector's Friendship
by James M. Dourgarian

I knew very little about Wallace Stegner when I first met him more than a decade ago.

I knew his name from catalogues of rare and collectible books sent to me by other booksellers. It seemed then as if his reputation was good and that the value of his books was on the rise. I had never read anything of his myself, nor did I know anything of him as an environmentalist/conservationist. I even thought he was still teaching at Stanford University, although he had been retired for about 11 years at that point. I wrote to him in care of Stanford asking if he would sign a beautiful copy of REMEMBERING LAUGHTER for me.

He wrote back to say he would indeed sign the book. He said to call, and he would give me directions. His modest stationery listed his home address, but there was no phone number to call. I pondered this predicament for some time and then called information. He was listed! I couldn't believe it. Wasn't he hounded by pushy booksellers and others who wanted something from him?

When I finally met him, he must have been about 73 years old. He looked about 55. He was handsome and robust, and he had an excellent head of slightly wavy white hair. Like John in ALL THE LITTLE LIVE THINGS, Stegner's countenance was one "of sobriety, responsibility and masculine resolution." At the same time, he was very charming and had a twinkle in his eyes as if he knew something I didn't. He certainly did.

That was the first of a series of visits that continued until his death. He seemed to enjoy our sessions, especially when remembering an obscure book, or discussing one of the multitude of writers he knew -- and he knew them all. Sometimes he would marvel at the condition of an especially ancient volume still in pristine condition. I even managed to bring him a few books that he had never seen before. He enjoyed the idea that I brought him anthologies and magazines and other collectibles in addition to his primary titles. He also liked the oddball editions I could find, such as the Armed Services Editions, remembering how he had to cut down THE BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN to fit the A. S. E. size requirements of the World War II books issued to American soldiers.

Once I arrived at Stegner's home to find him gone -- away on an errand. His wife and devoted friend, Mary, entertained me and my boxes full of books. Then she remembered the phone answering machine. She had, after all, just returned home herself. She excused herself to go have a listen, but I could hear the messages being played clearly from down the hall. So-and-so was calling from Colorado. Mr. Somebody Else called from Oregon. There were calls from Washington, state and capitol. There were a multitude of others, mostly out-of-state. There were others who wanted something from him, and most wanted something other than having him sign books. Could he appear at such-and-such a cause? Could he write a speech, or, better yet, could he deliver a speech? He was needed at this and that function in a fistful of places.

And why not? He had won the Pulitzer Prize for ANGLE OF REPOSE and the National Book Award for THE SPECTATOR BIRD. He founded the creative writing program at Stanford. Among the writers he nourished are Larry McMurtry, Tillie Olsen, Raymond Carver, Robert Stone, Wendell E. Berry, N. Scott Momaday, Ernest J. Gaines, Evan S. Connell. His 1960 missive has come to be known as the Wilderness Letter, a rallying point for conservationists to this day. As Wendell Berry once wrote, "He was no bystander; he served what he cared for. For him, caring and serving were two motions of a single thought."

Early on, I tried to move unobtrusively into Stegner's life. I wanted him to sign my books, but I didn't want to bother him. He was still writing. CROSSING TO SAFETY was in the pipeline. Over the years, my bringing a few books turned into my bringing a few boxes full of books. Naturally, the more I pursued him, the more I read his work; the more I read about him, the more I learned from him through out conversations. While he was very down to earth in many ways, his wide-ranging intelligence was inescapable. I used to tell my friends that my IQ went up every time I visited him. I think it rare to find common sense and high intellect in the same person. Wally had that duality, and I ad mired him for it. It was also clear that he was an artist, one who expressed his vision via the written word. He had this ability to take information experienced or learned, process it through his being, and then write about it as if it were his own. By that time, it was indeed his own.

One of the most endearing moments I ever spent with him concerned the 1960 O. Henry Awards anthology. He had already signed his introduction when I remembered that his Mary had edited the book. I asked him if she too would sign it for me. Mary was somewhere in the back of their house, while Wally and I sat at the kitchen table. He picked up the book, arose, and tiptoed down the hall in an exaggerated manner, calling "Meery...Meeery," in a little boy voice. He was in his 70s and still capable of being a young boy -- playful, loving, still on a first-name basis with the flowers he gardened. And that very same year he produced CROSSING TO SAFETY, a brilliant work by a mature man. As a friend said of him, "Wally was unaware of his greatness."

Wallace Stegner as a person, as a writer and story-teller, as an example, was a gift. I am privileged in having benefited from that gift, memories of which I cherish, helping the gift to live on -- just as his words and spirit will continue to live in the books and minds he left behind.

I have very often looked back at my having written to him so many years ago, each time wondering why I thought of him when there were so many other writers living in the San Francisco Bay Area who might sign books for me. Maybe it was my having that one spectacular copy of his first novel. It is sweet irony that originally I just wanted to increase the value of a book. In the end, my entire life has been enriched. I think now that choosing Wallace Stegner must have been pure blind luck. I couldn't have chosen more wisely.

Wallace Stegner: A Remembrance

by Lynn Stegner

I knew Wallace Stegner for ten years; he was my father-in-law, though in truth the hyphened suffix eventually held no meaning. My past had effectively orphaned me, and when one balmy spring afternoon day, my husband to be, and Wally's and Mary's only son, took me up to the house in Los Altos Hills for the traditional meet-the-parents evaluation, I felt doubly the important of this first interview. Wally was out on the deck where lunch had been set, wrestling with a new slipcover for an ancient chaise lounge. Rarely could he bring himself to throw things away; if there was any evidence of any residual value, he, the ultimate conservator, would make it work, even if it meant having to make annoying accommodations.

He was a splendid looking man, tall and gracefully postured, with white hair, exotic from a distance, like the crest of a rare creature, and a strong face in which unwavering blue eyes reposed, gazing out speculatively as though always ready -- ready to be amused or engaged, ready to learn. On all counts I regarded myself the unlikeliest of candidates. Abandoning his skirmish with the slipcover -- it wasn't clear who had got the better of whom -- he greeted me easily and warmly, offending neither of us with an immediate and false closeness, nor a formally cautious distance. He was a master -- and there was nothing studied or contrived or effortful about it -- at the appropriate: the appropriate word or gesture, attitude and response, the appropriate emotional bearing. This came, I believe, of a natural acumen for determining, measuring, and judging the relationships between things -- whether casual or circumstantial -- and at all times maintaining a balance. Indeed, in every respect, he was a man of exquisite balance. In WOLF WILLOW, referring to the prairie village of his youth and the ways in which that part of the earth had shaped him, he mentions "...the way I adjudicate between personal desire and person responsibility..." Herein lay the machinations of that exquisite balance, the source of his decency and dignity; it was not a balance in the literal sense, because Wally's desire was to be responsible. He was a kind of natural aristocrat.

The lunch was simple, elegant, the conversation pleasantly comfortable; I did my best to counter all with overeager, overloud impressions of an impressive possible daughter-in-law, which was met with silent, twinkling forgiveness. I had already read most of his books, I was already and irrevocably unworthy, and in the kitchen following lunch I heard myself say with the casual minimalism of someone who regards herself at an enormous disadvantage, "I'm a great fan of your books."

"I hope to be a fan of yours," Wally replied.

It seemed to me then, and it still does, that he could not have made a more self-defining quip. Everything -- his beliefs, his values, his methods, perhaps even his disposition to affection -- was contained in that lambent reply. Standards exist, he meant, larger concerns, a debt to honesty and truth, and none would be forsaken simply to quarter misguided notions of family loyalty. You're young, he meant, you have a lot of work to do, and while I am prepared to encourage you and to hope for the best, there are principles whose measure I will not shorten for anyone.

It was the sort of remark that had the effect of straightening my spine just a little, and yet it was delivered with such palpable kindness and generosity, a smile that enlisted all his features, that I'm convinced I departed that meeting a wee bit taller. And not because in his presence I felt myself to be somehow better; no. In his presence, because of his presence, because of the conduct of his life, I wanted to be better. I went away expecting more of myself, though this upsurge of courage or confidence was merely the counter-reflection of Wally's vision: he believed if we tried and worked and kept at it that we all could be better -- better caretakers of the land, better brothers to each other, better keepers of the truth, better writers. He believed in belief, the power of it, and he was not only willing to employ it, but profoundly sensible about what it would require of him and of others. He worked hard. Learning and understanding, achievements of any sort, were part of a continuum.

I remember one summer afternoon in Vermont walking from our house over to Mary's and Wally's, a five minute journey through moss and maples and black spruce that led me to the base of their hill, grassy about its crown with small ponds of fern, giving way at its lower margins to saplings, brush, golden rod, incipient weed populations. That was where I found Wally with a pair of clippers in hand.

"What are you doing?" I said.

"I've just cut 374 joe-pye weed," he announced with a kind of boyish pride.

"You counted them?"

He smiled a Cheshire smile.

I could see that there were at least that many more to cut; I knew, as he did, that they would keep coming up.

This was the way Wally worked; in steady and orderly increments, aware of the road he had traveled, aware, much more aware, of the height of the road he -- and the rest of us possessing the courage and will -- might travel if we dared. And he was there in the middle of it, striding along, forward-looking, keeping step with the present. Yet history was always with him -- his, the country's, humanity's. He wanted to remember; for him remembering was legacy, a legacy of things discovered, perhaps comprehended, perhaps even reconciled, a legacy of mistakes not to be made again, paths to avoid -- and that legacy he brought to bear upon the future. The present was simply where the work got done.

In 1988 Page and I built a log house from 300 red pine that he and his father had planted as seedlings forty years earlier out on the old farm in North Greensboro, Vermont where they had made their first summer camp during Wally's years at Harvard. Naturally Wally admired the house -- it was a fine and solid house -- but it was the idea of it that enchanted him philosophically: "We grew a house," he said on several occasions and with visible delight. Continuity. Past funding the present, informing the future. Found objects. Natural harmony. The builder or author or narrator or conservationist who, with prudence and polish, and mainly with honesty, might make "a clear statement of the lens." These he valued.

Of course, I was terrifically spoiled, having Page, Mary, and Wally as readers, each of whom brought to the task a lifetime of books read, as well as a variance of perspective and taste, and in Page's and Wally's case, the practical knowledge belonging to writers who actually write. When Wally read the first 200 pages of the first draft of my first novel, he wrote me a long and gently pragmatic critique -- but the upshot was, I was going to have to start over. I spent two days in a kind of agony of waste -- time, hope, effort -- pretty handily defeated by the immensity of what I didn't know, and of what I would have to do. I cried a lot. On the third night following receipt of Wally's critique, when we were all in San Francisco for the book signing celebration of CROSSING TO SAFETY, Page mentioned my distress to his father which, until then, I had concealed. It was late, we were driving down the peninsula, and Wally and I were in the back seat. He patted my hand, murmured something to the effect that I ought not to be upset, and then went on to discuss point of view -- how this was the most important of the early decisions an author must make, how it would shape naturally the course of the story and its telling, and how he felt I ought to confine the point of view to a single character. Which I did. When he read the third draft of the novel, a small, exhilarating infection of faint "ok's" appeared in the margins of the manuscript. He did not dispense praise wantonly; I suppose he felt to do so would be somehow irresponsible. But one "ok" from Wally equaled the effusive paragraphs and exclamation marks of others. The "ok" meant something more, though: it meant this is fine, perhaps better than fine, but don't settle down here, keep growing. On the other hand, he felt that recognition was important. One summer I earned second place in a national short story contest. I never mentioned it to Wally and Mary, though at some point Page did.

"Why didn't you tell us?" Wally asked me.

"Oh, well," I fumbled, "by comparison... well, it seemed inconsequential."

"It isn't," he said. "It isn't at all." But I could see he was in other ways pleased not only by the temperance, the recognition of a larger, more mature tribe and my apprenticeship in it, but more importantly, by the sense of what there was yet to do, and to try to do. Now I have a second novel coming out, and at least in terms of progress, I think he would be proud.

As with his writing, he was in life direct and unflinching, reliable as the land he loved. Unless Mary stepped in to whisk him way, or impose a cautioning restraint, he often found himself in the grip of helpfulness. When I was seven months pregnant, summer of '88, the days trailing off behind the weatherman's morning mantra -- hazy, hot, and humid -- six weeks going, and we had a wood floor to lay in the new house. Wally, at age eighty, was there with Page, on his hands and knees, with his bad hip, and the bad heat, singing some work jingle from his youth -- all to spare me the toil. He was the original gentleman, without the mannered trappings that might condescend, or make one uncomfortable. Of women he was particularly respectful and cherishing, seemed almost to wince whenever he saw me carrying anything, even a laundry basket, as though, knowing some of what my life had been, he would now wrest from me any burdens. When we all went to Italy in 1985 I was seldom allowed to carry suitcases. A tray of champagne glasses I was passing around at his birthday party was preemptively snatched from my hands. And of course for Mary he was a kind of knight. They did everything together walking, reading, editing, they even baked bread together, she mixing the ingredients, he popping in from his study at the requisite intervals to pound and knead the dough.

When Page and I were married in Vermont -- a dozen friends, a short ceremony -- it was Wally who took my arm and walked me in to the house. This gesture was not prearranged or discussed, not assumed by me, not even imagined. There was no one to give me away. But, characteristically, Wally found the simplest, most perfectly lovely gesture with which to officially welcome me into the family.

There were certain kinds of assumptions for which he had little tolerance. One of these was the assumption that there existed 'an easy way,' and that one had only to locate it, or finesse it. He was faithful to whatever bond he made -- to a book, to a place, to a friend, to a woman. He was witty, which is not to say he was funny: funny is a broader, sloppier thing, and Wally's witticisms were like small, intricate gifts wrapped in beautiful timing that went on pleasing the mind as well as the heart long after their moment of delivery. He sang when he was happy, folk songs of the old west; he could play a blade of grass for my daughter's delight. In the pursuit of daily chores he could find the sublime. He made connections, often between the seemingly wildly disparate, producing metaphors with prismatic effect. He liked football, Mozart, my lemon meringue pies. What he didn't like inspired for the most part his silence, except for the abuse of Western lands about which he was practically evangelical, I supposed because he believed that something like evangelicalism was what it would take to save it. He admired diligence, understatement, the skillful impersonations of the mockingbird perched on the wire above the house. He admired a willingness to do things on one's own, even while on a larger scale he believed cooperation was what finally would preserve the land and improve its civilization, and render humanity a more humane species.

On any scale and at any distance, maybe especially up close, he was a hero. Truth lies in the details, and from the "small muscle jobs" (as he referred to them), like baking bread or laying floors or cutting down joe-pye weed or tapping out a travel piece, to the large muscle jobs, like trying to save the West from itself, or writing a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that would embody and enliven western settlement without romance, without the figments of myth, without undue promise, Wally was exactly what he appeared to be, behaved according to what he believed was decent, responsible behavior, and he wrote what his heart knew to be the truth. His life flowed easily into his work, his work was no intruder in his lived life; and between the two he resisted sleights of hand, fabulous optimism, short cuts, language for its own or his own aggrandizement.

Wally never granted himself the stature that others granted him, though he deserved every inch of it. I suppose he didn't want it to get in the way of work there was to do. He was intent on progress, eager about it, and by that I mean the progress of the species. Perhaps he thought that too much self-appreciation would have weakened resolve, or robbed him of the necessary urgency to keep moving forward.

I suppose knowing him, being in his close presence, might have been at time dangerous -- dangerous to one's own capacity for self-acceptance. Because he was emphatically yet quietly great. And gracious, and wise, as good a citizen of a dinner party as he was of this country, a participant, a giver, a human being who genuinely felt for others and without a sentimentality that would have had a reductive effect. Of course, he possessed huge gifts, but these gifts would not have attained their full range of consequence had he not at the same time accepted with characteristic humility the obligations they implied and the work they suggested. For he was above all else, a tireless, enthusiastic worker.

I suppose one might have felt somehow less being around Wally, but, aside from the fact that he never regarded anyone as essentially less than he, indeed, accorded one an d all decorous attention and respect, there was the simple fact of his being, the quality of his presence, like a single note struck purely, without distortion, and sounding across the miles and the years with undiminished beauty. His presence was like a call to duty; around Wally I could seldom sit idle.

Around Wally, too, I felt possibilities within and without; what he taught me, among many things, was that to disregard possibilities -- both good and bad -- was to abandon life. Wally never abandoned life.

I loved him. I told him frequently; it is in my nature to do so. And it always seemed to embarrass him -- not the sentiment, but the statement of it. Like the characters in his novels, he was a man revealed through his actions, and his actions were thoroughly and more than sufficiently expressive of deep concern, and of affection carefully tended. He simply preferred evidential signs to declaratory emblems.

Point of view -- this, he told me, was one of the most important formative decisions a novelist must make. A man, too, perhaps. It seems to me that early in Wally's life he must have made just that sort of decision, and he stood by it, and it shaped and informed him as a person. His was a point of view both singular and encompassing. Fortunately, he shared it with the rest of us.

Read San Francisco Public Library's Biography:
Wallace Stegner, The Quiet Revolutionary by James Hepworth

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