Timothy Egan

You have placed on permanent record an extraordinary set of portraits of Western people who have encountered opportunity and loss, promise and disappointment, exhilaration and anguish, and still stayed on the trail with resilience and spirit. Your perfectly matched gifts—selecting individuals you know will be worthy of our attention, and capturing the intensity, meaning, energy, and wonder of their lives—serve as a reliable yawn-curtailment device, redeeming those benighted souls who go through life declaring, “I never cared much for history.” Pretty darned quotable yourself, you have also served as collector, curator, and connoisseur of extraordinary quotations from people who have departed from life but left essential words in their wake. Even though financier J. P. Morgan, if restored to our company, would have deeply enjoyed expressing his contempt for your political convictions, one sentence you quote from him—“I like a man who attempts the impossible”—could serve as a celebration of your own achievements in moving with grace from past to present and back again. Urging us to “dream other dreams, and better,” Wallace Stegner hoped that Westerners would take part in a serious and searching conversation about our past, present, and future. You have orchestrated your career as a writer to give substance to Mr. Stegner’s dream. As long as this region is your habitat, the charismatic megafauna known as the Western Public Intellectual will be spared an appearance on the Endangered Species List.