Alta Live: Did Wallace Stegner Steal ‘Angle of Repose’ from a Woman?

Sands Hall explores allegations that author Wallace Stegner plagiarized parts of his Pulitzer Prize–winning Angle of Repose.

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When Mary Melton read an early draft of Sands Hall’s story for Alta on Wallace Stegner and Mary Hallock Foote, she was surprised to find a mystery tale where she had expected literary criticism. Melton, like Hall, began to view Stegner’s use of Foote’s writing in his Pulitzer Prize–winning novel Angle of Repose as a kind of crime. “As with any person who is writing a crime story, you’re going to come upon some revelations that you didn’t expect,” Melton said. Hall concurred: “It was so much more devious than even I had thought.”

Hall’s goal with the story, she told Alta Live, was to bring this literary controversy “to an audience of people who know and love this book, who know and have appreciated Stegner’s writing. He says it himself: ‘The ways of fiction are devious indeed’—and that I think he made a real pact with the devil. I also think he thought her writing would never see the light of day. He just gambled, and I would like to think he’s on the losing end of that gamble.”

But as Hall wrote—first her play about Stegner and Foote, Fair Use, and later her Alta story—she began to notice connections between Foote’s stolen legacy and larger patterns of erasure and violence against women. “As I began to dig into this story, it tapped some enormous rage in me about what’s been done to women for millennia,” Hall said, referring to not just plagiarism but also lost legacies and abuse. “If [my Alta story] is just a drop in the bucket of the large ocean of [fixing] these wrongs, and if someone is made aware of it, that is the work I want to do.”

Want to chime in on the discussion? Let us know what you think at letters@altaonline.com.

Check out these links to some of the topics Hall and Melton brought up.

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