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Meregaglia uncovers another unpublished piece by Vardis Fisher

Alessandro Meregaglia
Alessandro Meregaglia with Vardis Fisher’s Idaho guide written as part of the Federal Writers’ Project. Photo by Patrick Sweeney.

A past Boise State story walked readers through Alex Meregaglia’s literary find,  an unpublished manuscript by Vardis Fisher, one of Idaho’s most celebrated writers.

Now Meregaglia, an assistant professor, librarian and archivist at Albertsons Library, has found a second unpublished piece, an essay by Fisher that never has been made available to the public.

At the time of Fisher’s death in 1968, obituaries mentioned that the writer was working on a book called “The American West: The World’s Greatest Physical Wonderland.”

“I didn’t know how much he had worked on it, if at all,” said Meregaglia.

Meregaglia was researching Fisher, reading through the inventory of the writer’s  papers in the archives at Yale University, when he came upon a folder labeled “drafts of Fisher’s essay The World’s Greatest Physical Wonderland.”

“That piqued my interest,” said Meregaglia.

Inside, he found an essay by Fisher describing his love of the landscape of the American West. Fisher shared the piece as an address at the College of Idaho in while he was a writer-in-residence. He died six months later.

Meregaglia received permission from Fisher’s last surviving son, T. R. Fisher, to publish the piece. It appears in print for the first time in the 2020 edition of The Limberlost Review. An introductory piece by Meregaglia, “Vardis Fisher’s Last Essay,” gives historical context.

He shared part of the essay, which features “Fisher’s regional jingoism,” as Meregaglia said:

“We have such a wealth of splendors out here that I feel a little shame at holding a few of them up for the East to look at. In the entire expanse of it, from Caribou in the northern tip of Maine, to Flamingo in the southern tip of Florida the East has, besides its two outstanding features, Mammoth Cave and the Everglades, only the Acadia, Shenandoah, and Great Smoky parks, which, compared to our greatest, are really nothing at all.”

Fisher wrote some 30 novels, as well as poetry and essays. He was born and raised in Eastern Idaho and spent the last three decades of his life in Hagerman. During the Great Depression, Fisher was part of the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal program that hired out-of-work writers, researchers, historians and others who produced thousands of publications. Fisher worked for the Federal Writers’ Project from 1935-1939. During that time he was the principal author of three books on Idaho, including the critically-acclaimed “Idaho: A Guide in Word and Picture” in 1937.