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April 04, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

WHERE THE BLUEBIRD SINGS TO THE LEMONADE SPRINGS: Living and Writing in the West by Wallace Stegner (Penguin: $11; 227 pp.). Stegner explores various aspects of geography and culture in these eloquent essays, including life as he's lived it in the West, characteristics that define the West and writers who have treated the West intelligently in their work. For Stegner, aridity is the factor that defines the Western United States, dictating the scale and type of agriculture the land can support and the importance of water rights. He decries the wasteful practices that are rapidly depleting a finite water supply and warns that the region lacks the geophysical resources to support its burgeoning population indefinitely. But Stegner loves the land and its people too much to confine himself to the role of Cassandra; he celebrates their special beauties, proclaiming, "We feel more affinity with Romulus and Remus than with Nero. We are still busy founding Rome while in New York they fiddle to celebrate its burning."

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