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thyrkas

Discussion: Angle of Repose

thyrkas
15 years ago

Hope you have had time to read Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose. I hadn't read it for a number of years and truly enjoyed reading it again. The story of Susan Burling Ward and Oliver Ward could have been ordinary, I think, but Stegner's skill as a writer made it anything but. His ability to move the story by means of a single sentence, or even just a word, between present and past, eastern America and western America, Susan and Oliver's tale and his Lyman Ward's struggles, left me amazed.

There was (is?) some problem with Stegner not acknowledging his sources in anything but a short paragraph on a separate page at the beginning of the book. I wonder what you think of that? I have ordered the book that was written by a family member of Mary Hallock Foote in response to the controversy - or at least I think I have! I will let you know when the book arrives, hopefully this week. Here is a is a link to information about Ms Foote: http://www.ochcom.org/foote/

One of the things that I carry with me from this book is the idea of scale. The size of North America from east to west and north to south; the height of the mountains, the depth of the mines, the vast mesa, and the great personal challenge to those who were curious and ambitious enough to try to live lives spanning this geographic scale. Despite these and many other difficulties, the book remains optimistic, for the most part. Stegner, through his characters, expresses an appreciation for and delight in those who show courage, fidelity, integrity, and selflessness. There are also several parts of the story which are very funny, IMO.(e.g. Lyman 'the Gorgon' Ward meets an old high school friend, Al Sutton - a gargoyle in his own right.)

Any suggestions on how to go about the discussion? The book is divided into Parts, each one having to do with a location where Susan and Oliver lived together. Should we try to go by Parts?

Looking forward to the discussion!

Comments (78)

  • georgia_peach
    15 years ago

    I also agree about Mexico. It was dream that reality was bound to sooner or later intrude upon if they had stayed.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    I wanted to say that this novel reminded me of another classic: "Main Street" by Sinclair Lewis, that was written in the 1920's. In it, Carol Kennicott is an Easterner who marries and goes out to the midwest, which she considers incredibly drab and boring. How she tries to adapt and make a new life in a dull small town is the thrust of the book. I recommend it highly.

    I do think Susan was somewhat of a snob, but probably I would have behaved no differently than she, had I been put in similar circumstances. Even today, there are some Easterners of the Ivy League set who look down upon mid-westerners.

    I wanted to play Devil's Advocate here, as I have read other works about the pioneers' difficult lives in settling the West, e.g. living in sod houses in the Dakotas and dealing with unfriendly Native Americans. I want to say that Susan had it relatively easy, IMHO. She had a tutor and caretaker for her children (Nellie) and a Chinese cook (Wan). She also had the various menfolk who hung around as protectors. I can't recall the name of the Swede. Just the fact that she could afford a Nellie and a Wan tells me a lot. Not to decry the fact that she worked hard at her profession.

    Vee, never heard of a Cornish Jack --- unfamiliar term, here.

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  • veronicae
    15 years ago

    Stegner's language is magic. When Susan makes her descent into the mine, and is thinking of the pictures she can draw, Stegner's language is magically drawing those pictures for the reader. I especially enjoyed the "picture" of them on the lift, passing the man with the loaded ore cart, "already sliding up out of sight before they had been more than half seen." The illusion of the still cart being in movement rather than Susan and her guides was palpable/visible (language is failing me...three visitors under 10!)

    I also enjoyed Stegener's definition of a pioneer when Oliver and Susan were in the canyon. "[Oliver's] clock was set on pioneer time. He met trains that had not yet arrived, he waited on platforms that hadn't yet been built, beside tracks that might never be laid....he heard the clock of history strike, and counted wrong. Hope was always out ahead of fact, possiblity obscured the outlines of reality."

    Re: Susan's embarrassment over Oliver's failures and preceived inferiority. I think in Mexico is the only time (so far - I have them just starting in the canyon) that she doesn't feel that way, that she sees his strengths and ackknowledges that his values and goals are different, not lesser. In contrast to Don Gustavo with his ostentatious way of life and being, she sees Oliver for himself: "He could not have been pompous...without laughing. He had to be himself-nothing spectacular, nothing gorgeous...her plain boy. But it was on his skill and judgement that everything hung. Having doubted him throughout the picturesque hour of departure, she now saw him go with a quick, strong rush of love and pride." Oliver's being proclaims: "This is what I am." and Susan's responds: "This is what you are and I love you."

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    thrykas, when you have time, I hope you will tell us more about the book you ordered on Mary H. Foote.

    I would also like to know what other authors influenced the writing style of Stegner. I read that he was teacher of author Larry McMurtrey.

    For those who would like to read more interesting and true accounts of the settling of the American West, I recommend Joanna Stratton's "Pioneer Women." (NF).

  • veer
    15 years ago

    Paula, thanks for the info on Almaden. I suppose at the height of the mining activity it was less green and pleasant.

    Mary, below is an article about 'Cousin Jacks' the term Stegner uses several times in the Almaden chapter.. nb it mentions Grass Valley on page 3.

  • georgia_peach
    15 years ago

    Perhaps an unexpected source for one of those tales of educated Eastern women moving to the West near the turn of the 20th century is John McPhee's NF book, Rising from the Plains. Along with telling us about the geological history of the region, he tells the story of how the parents of one geologist met in what was then the rough and tumble frontier of Wyoming. It's very charming, and was my favorite of McPhee's books about geology.

    I think one internet article I found on Stegner did mention Cather as an influence. Another article I found mentioned that Stegner was a great influence on Barry Lopez who wrote a NF book about the natural history of the northern/Arctic frontier, Arctic Dreams, which is sitting in my TBR. I may have to move that up in my reading queue.

  • rosefolly
    15 years ago

    Thanks, Vee. I love the beauty of this area. The only problem with it is that the population has exploded and now far more people live here than the natural rainfall can support. As one of those additional people I know I have no right to complain. But all of northern California is truly a landscape of that fills the senses. No wonder Susan found so much inspiration for her art.

    I must say I wanted to smack her for her embarrassment over her husband. The fact that she couldn't see his fine qualities was her weakest one. No, he was not perfect, though his lack of honesty with her bothered me a great deal more than his lack of polish. Susan did indeed have it easy compared to other pioneer women. But she didn't really know other pioneer women, and did not think to compare her lot with theirs. Her frame of reference was the life she might have known back east had she married Thomas Hudson.

    Wallace Stegner is famous for having founded the creative writing program at Stanford University. I'd heard of that long before I ever read any of his books. He taught a number of other well-known writers, among them Wendell Berry, Thomas McGuane, Ken Kesey, and others as well as Larry McMurtry. I was intrigued to see in the Wikipedia article that former supreme court justice Sandra Day O'Connor was one of his students.

    I also found a several of the stories by Mary Hallock Foote, the inspiration for Susan, on Project Gutenberg. Her illustrations for Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter are there as well.

  • veer
    15 years ago

    Sorry, don't know where the Cousin Jack article went. Let's try again.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Cousin Jacks

  • carolyn_ky
    15 years ago

    I was familiar with the term Cousin Jacks but have no idea from where--probably from far-flung settings of murder mysteries where I acquire most of my esoteric knowledge.

    I hadn't thought of Main Street as a comparison, but I agree that it is. One thing I've always remembered from it was that although the main character resented having to live in her mother-in-law's house, when her husband offered to buy her a new one, she said she preferred the quirky charm of the old one to the copycat new houses being built.

  • thyrkas
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    The Book "A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West" which I have only had a chance to skim through, is a lovely book. The illustrations by Ms Foote are really very good, and there are also some photographs of the Foote family and their close friends because, according to the preface by Rodman Paul, "This was the beginning of the age of amateur photography, and the Foote and Hague families were pioneers in that art."

    What I have been able to discern from my cursory look through the book is that Susan's personality in AOR was not created by Stegner, but by Ms Foote herself. The letters in AOR are the real McCoy, and clearly show her intelligence, her wit, her courage and her foibles. Stegner let those characteristics guide the fiction he builds into the actual story of Mary and Arthur Foote.

    In New Almaden, Susan has her first fling at 'nest building', and is distraught at the thought of leaving. Lyman write, "She is Massaccio's Eve, more desolate than Adam because he can invent the bow and arrow and the spear, but she can only try to reassemble outside Eden an imperfect copy of what she has lost." In another paragraph he says, "But I find I don't mind her emotions and her sentiments. Home is a notion that only the nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend. What else would one plant in a frontier? What loss would hurt more?"
    In our first ten years of marriage, my husband and I moved nine times. I think I understand what Susan was experiencing. I never did get used to moving, and dread the thought of ever having to move again. Anybody else feel the same way? Are there some who enjoy the adventure of moving?

    vee - the introduction does say that there were more than 500 hundred letters exchanged between Ms Foote and Ms Gilder ("Augusta") over several decades, but does not specifically mention a collection of letters to or from Ms Foote held by the family of Ms Gilder. It would probably involve some research on Helena de Kay Gilder to discover that bit of info.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    Vee, thanks for the interesting info. on Cornish Jacks.

    I am not surprised to learn that Stegner was influenced by the writings of Willa Cather, one of my favorite authors. By the way, Cather was born in the East; later her family moved them to the mid-West.

    I want to ask the others what you thought of the dream sequence at the ending? I found it quite disturbing, and I read it twice. It is most revealing of the narrator's inner fears and very psychological and symbolic. It suddenly dawned on me this morning why I found it disturbing and perhaps incongruent: in my view, the narrator is quite respectful and forgiving of both his grandparents and of even his father. However, what seems lacking is his respect for himself and for Ellen. And I don't think he was that respectful of the girl who was helping him sort through the letters. Although, I must admit, when I read the last page and the last sentence, I thought: "well, how else would he have ended this story?"

  • georgia_peach
    15 years ago

    The dream sequence is odd, and I'm not sure I can formulate an adequate response to it (I'm still thinking about how it works with the rest of the novel and what it means relative to the title and if indeed that works). My first thought as I read it, before realizing it was a dream, was why Lyman's ex had never been to Grass Valley before. Why was he explaining so much about his family? Given the length of their marriage, shouldn't she have known at least a little bit about his family? But then it's revealed as a dream and I wondered what it was suppose to symbolize or say about his life before his illness. And, well, the scene with Shelly in the bathroom was... hmm... odd and probably very psychologically revealing about Lyman's concerns and fears over his condition.

    I think bringing up the dream raises a host of other questions about how the modern storyline parallels and diverges from the historical one. What did you think about Shelly's relationship with her husband? Is it in any way comparable to Susan's or Lyman's marriage? At first, I found it difficult to make any parallels between Larry (Shelly's estranged husband) and Oliver, but yet they were both dreamers. Do you think Eastern society might have viewed Oliver the way Lyman viewed Larry?

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    Yes, I do think that Eastern society viewed Oliver as a misfit, so that is a good parallel, Georgia. At first, I thought Susan viewed Oliver as a "diamond in the rough." I have gone back to the beginning of the novel and am now reading parts of it over again in order to better grasp the nuances.

    As for the last 2 pages, I thought Stegner made a good point in labeling Susand & Oliver "vertical people." Then he goes on with his analogy of how their lives intersected. And that this "angle of repose" with its leaning on each other is the best most couples can hope for in life, without a Keystone. And then, in his relationship with Ellen, he compares himself with his grandparents, which leaves open the issue of whether or not he will yield to Ellen, and return to live beside her, so he will not be alone, just as his grandparents did, but having little or nothing in common with her. (last sentence of the book). I was absolutely mesmerized by the imcomparable, impeccable writing style of Stegner. If I were an English Professor at a University, this book would be on the required reading list as an American classic, right up there with "Great Gatsby", "O Pioneers", "Light in August", and others....

  • sheriz6
    15 years ago

    The dream sequence was really odd and jarring - maybe intentionally so to pull the reader out of Susan and Oliver's world and firmly back into Lyman's world? Do you think Ellen was actually going to come back to him?

    The parallels in the three relationships are definitely there: Susan, Ellen and Shelly are all smart women with traditional backgrounds married to men who dragged them along on their careers (in the case of O and L) and travels. Oliver, Lyman and Larry are all dreamers to some degree and all have alcohol/drug issues. Frank and the doctor Ellen took up with both committed suicide (or was the doctor's death an accident? I was unclear there). Who was Shelly's Frank? Was it Lyman?

    Georgia, you have a good point about how Eastern society might have viewed Oliver just as Lyman viewed Larry, though I can't believe Oliver's occupation and location would cause the same level of upset to his Eastern contemporaries as Larry's lifestyle as an unemployed, self-centered hippie did for Shelly's parents and Lyman.

  • georgia_peach
    15 years ago

    I agree that it should be considered an American classic and with the incomparable writing -- definitely a rare bird.

    Attached is one of the articles I read about Stegner (you might like this one, Mary). Sadly, I'm not surprised Eastern critics have been dismissive about Stegner. I am incredulous that one called this "a Pontiac in the age of Apollo." Yet another one of those examples of literary snobbery that raises my hackles.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Western Authors Celebrate a Master

  • veer
    15 years ago

    I must agree with Sheri and say I was jolted by the 'dream' in the final few pages and found it quite a let-down from what had gone before.
    All through the telling of the S and O story Lyman was careful not to make any sexual references about their relationship which the ''liberated' Shelly found odd, yet Stegner does (or implies) that very thing in the bathroom scene.

    I'd like to ask what people thought of Lyman. Are we to understand that his divorce, his handicap and being confined to a wheelchair and totally reliant on others have made him hard and cynical or was he always that way? I found him difficult to warm to . . . maybe what Stegnar intended.

  • thyrkas
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    I like Lyman. He is trying to stay independent in the face of great physical and emotional difficulties, and I find this admirable.
    I think he is humorous in a very dry way. I also think he admits to being rather stand off-ish and 'tuned-out' as a husband,just as his grandfather was, and he was a cuckold, just as Oliver was, too. He has inherited his grandfather's personality, and his grandmother's intellectual gifts.

    As far as the dream scene at the end, I think Stegner intended to disrupt the reader's angle of repose - and I believe he succeeded.

  • lemonhead101
    15 years ago

    Well, he definitely disrupted my own angle of respose with that dream sequence. I found it to be totally unexpected and am still trying to figure out the meaning of it all.

    Does anyone know if his book "Crossing to Safety" is similar? As good as this?

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    I'm glad I am not the only one who found the dream sequence very disturbing and disruptive.

    I read "Crossing to Safety" many years ago. I don't remember the plot and I think I might have been too young to appreciate it fully. I recall it was very good, however.
    I plan to read it next, as soon as I finish re-reading the beginning of AOR and taking all the details in.

  • thyrkas
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    I read 'Crossing to Safety first'. Beautiful, disturbing, and well worth the time, I think.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    Georgia, thanks for sharing the article on Stegner. Interesting that he had a falling out with Ken Kesey. But his feelings against the counter culture of the Sixties come out in the persona of Lyman's attitudes towards hippies, etc. The last quotation from Stegner in the article reminded me very much of Henry David Thoreau, who said words to the effect: "In wildness is the salvation of the world...."

  • thyrkas
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    One of my favorite parts of AOR is the description of the wagon ride into Leadville via the Mosquito Pass. Stegner writes such a marvelous description of the internal landscape of Susan and Oliver while telling of the ferocious external landscape of the pass and its travelers.

    Anyone care to share their thought on the character called "Pricey"?

  • georgia_peach
    15 years ago

    Pricey was a sweet and gentle soul, though unfit for the life he was leading. I liked the way they adopted him, and felt very sad about what happened to him, and even worse for Oliver who had to send him away. In a way, this must have been similar to what Lyman had to do with his father in the end.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    I am glad I am re-reading part of the novel re early in the marriage of Oliver and Susan. They were close and optimistic at first, which makes what eventually happened even more tragic, I think. I am picking up more nuance that I did not get, before, e.g. Susan saw the move West as a temporary adventure and always assumed that in later years, they would return in triumph to the East to reside permanently. Oliver, of course, did not see the move that way. I think he was bored with the effete East and welcomed the physical challenges of the West. How different these two were in personalities, yet they made a happy marriage, at first.

    It occurred to me that if enough of you are interested, we could consider reading "Crossing to Safety" together and then have a discussion. What do you think?

  • rosefolly
    15 years ago

    I'm thinking of reading Crossing to Safety soon myself. I put it on my Amazon wishlist a couple of days ago so I wouldn't forget.

    Rosefolly

  • thyrkas
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    Pricey is a very dear character, and is an example, I think, of Stegner's wanting to remove some of the myth regarding the "Men of the West". He didn't fit the stereotype of the western man, but he brought great tenderness to a rough and demanding location in his quiet, bookish ways.

    I'd be interested in joining the reading of 'Crossing to Safety' if it were after the new year some time. My obligations at home, work and other places will be increasing over the holidays.

  • J C
    15 years ago

    We should definitely discuss Crossing to Safety. I'm sure there is a lot of interest, given the response to this book.

    I suppose this is obvious to many, but it is something I have puzzled over: Lyman's disability, which left him virtually helpless and unable to turn his head. What is the significance of this?

  • thyrkas
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    Lyman might give a hint to why Stegner has mad him physically challlenged in the paragraphs about Susan's observations of Mexico as they are getting ready to leave her happy time there. This is at the end of Part V, Michoacan. He makes these comments:

    "There is only one passage in her third 'Century' article to indicate that she sometimes forgot the romantic color of what she was seeing, and let her mind brood on the fact that this picturesque road led nowhere but back, and back to what? Not even the meager stability of Leadville.
    "We met no one but Indians," she writes. "Once it was a young man who had given his straw hat to the woman behind him and went bareheaded himself, his coarse thatch of hair shining like shoe blacking in the sun. She carried a sleeping child swaying heavily in the folds of her rebozo. With one hand, which also carried her shoes of light-colored sheepskin, she held the rebozo across her face. In the other hand she carried a rude guitar. Over the blue cotton cloth held across her face she stared fixedly out of her great black eyes.
    "I wondered at her look of awed curiosity, until I realized that I was riding with my hands clasped behind me, to rest them from holding in my rosillo (her horse), while Oliver had taken my bridle and was leading me along. I was wearing the black silk mask that Emelita had given me. To that Indian woman I must have looked like a captive, bound and masked, being led a way to the mountains."
    To which Lyman responds:
    I hear you, Grandmother. Entiendo. (I understand)

    Lyman understands his grandmother's description of what LOOKS like captivity to be a reflection of the real sense of captivity she has to face in the future. He recognizes and sympathizes with her because of his own physical handicap, which also holds him captive.
    Perhaps Stegner wants to make Lyman a symbol of the captivity that we all face, in some form or another. The day we live in, our sex, our profession, the place of our birth. Our place in history also affects, or limits,our view of the past. Lyman's handicap limits his vision since he can't turn his head. He therefore suffers from tunnel vision. So maybe Stegner is saying that even though he respects history, he knows we are limited in our ability to 'see' what it fully means?

  • carolyn_ky
    15 years ago

    Excellent thoughts, Thrykas. Does anyone know what his disease was?

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    thrykas, excellent analysis! I, too, wondered what was the cause of Lyman's disability. At one time, I had thought it might be a form of bone cancer, necessitating the amputation.

  • veer
    15 years ago

    thrykas, you asked about 'Pricey'. There were many cases of the adventurous English man who going abroad to seek his fortune, or to escape from some 'unpleasantness' at home but Pricey does seem truly unfitted for the rigous of the West. One wonders why his family shipped him abroad . . . and didn't seem too keen to have him back after he was injured.
    I wonder if there was an original 'Pricey' in the true Foote story or maybe, as you say Stegner put him there as a contrast to the rough Western ways and to provide a friend for Frank and a literary companion for Susan.

    An interesting point that Mary/woodnymph makes that this book would be a good choice for a College course as an American Classic.
    As it came out almost 40 years ago, why has this not already happened?
    Not being American I find it strange that works by 'Western' authors are looked down on. Is there an attitude/ mind set that East is Best? Are you Westerners still jangling your spurs and spitting on the floor? ;-)

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    Vee, there is an outdated sort of elitism on the East Coast which looks down on "Middle America." This attitude is, I hope, on its way out. But remember that it is in the East that the Ivy League Universities and private preparatory schools are to be found. Harvard dates back to its founding sometime in the 1600's. The College of William and Mary in Virginia also was begun in the 1600's.

    Old is not necessarily better, but some folk like to brag that their ancestors came over on the Mayflower. When I lived in Boston, there was a jingle that went: "Ah, here's to merry olde Boston, the home of the bean and the cod; where the Lodges speak only to the Cabots, and the Cabots speak only to God." And I often heard the term, "Boston Bluestocking."

    But then there is the outdated, reverse attitude coming from the West: the "effete Easterner." (the idea being that a real man must be "macho", love the outdoors, and be physically as fit as a cowboy).

    These mindsets are going the way of the dinosaur as American becomes increasingly multicultural.

  • thyrkas
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    vee- Regarding Pricey, he was indeed a real person - Hugh Price - (from the Foote book) "He was a public-school boy, an Oxford man, a student in Germany, a traveler. The other boys teased him about being always in our sitting room, always silent and buried in a book; they called it a 'free reading room for Pricey'.

    The description of Pricey's quote of 'O tenderly the haughty day' while out riding is also in the Foote book, and his end was a sad one, but not as Stegner records it. He apparently succumbed to altitude sickness, and went out of his mind. 'The altitude of heartbreak' they sometimes call it, says Ms Foote. He was sent home to his relatives in England.

    I don't know what Lyman's illness is either, but being an x-ray tech, I thought of ankylosing spondylitis. AS is a progressive stiffening of the spine, which causes the body to bed forward. But I don't know that AS would be the reason for an amputation.

  • J C
    15 years ago

    I had thought of that illness also, but doesn't it normally strike people under 35? I will have to look back through the book - it seems to me the name of his disease is mentioned one time only, but I can't place it.

    As a Westerner now living in Boston, I can say without a doubt the East/West divide still exists to some extent. I generally find it quite laughable. This from a recent non-fiction book: the West Coast, particularly California, which, "while beautiful to look at, soaks up every bit of intellectual energy before extended though can attach itself to a human person residing out there wherever it is you live." Hmmm. This guy is seriously East Coast!

  • J C
    15 years ago

    Actually, I'm wrong - I found the reference. Lyman is talking to his old acquaintance, Al Sutton, and merely says, "bone disease."

  • phyllis__mn
    15 years ago

    I finished AOR last night, and feel curiously unsettled. It's as though I didn't truly finish the story, and realize that is the story, in that they just continued their lives with no great drama. I really didn't like the idea of the dream, for some reason, and think that may be what is bothering me.

  • rosefolly
    15 years ago

    About the east vs west issue here in America, I see it as an easterner (Pennsylvania) who moved to California nearly twenty years ago now. I expected to find a less intellectual life here than I found back east. To my surprise, it was the opposite. There are more bookstores, more and better funded libraries, better paid librarians, and much more respect for education. Here in the heart of Silicon Valley where the computer drives the economy I know more people who read for pleasure than I did back east.

    As an aside, I'd like to share a story I heard when former president Bill Clinton's daughter Hilary was selecting a college. It was expected that she would choose one of the Ivy League schools back east. There was astonishment when she selected Standford University (incidentally the school where Wallace Stegner ran his creative writing program). The shocked establishment consoled themselves by saying doubtfully that after all, Stanford was the Harvard of the West. Then came the cool reply. No, actually, Harvard is the Stanford of the East.

    Rosefolly

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    rosefolly, what a great story! :-)

  • thyrkas
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    Oh,rosefolly, to be so quick witted!

    phyllis mn - It seems like many of us have had strong reactions to the dream at the end of AOR. I wonder if Stegner is using a post modern technique in this mostly 19th century tale. He is not letting us sit back, observe, and then empathize or sympathize with the characters, he is forcing us to 'experience' the disruption of our own angle of repose as readers. Maybe he wants us to know first hand, in a small way, the upheaval that peppered Oliver and Susan Ward's life, and Lyman's marriage?

    He also brings us squarely back to the present-day style of writing with his clear, albeit bizarre, description of a very sexually charged scene. And as sheriz mentioned earlier, we end up back in Lyman's current dilemma at the end of the book. Come to think of it, not having a clear cut ending is a modern treatment of the end of a book, too! Guess we, and Lyman, have to face the facts of the times in which we live, whether we want to or not. Still, he leaves us the hope that, having done the research on his family, he may reconcile with his wife; that is what history may be teaching him.

  • thyrkas
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    Bringing this up to see if there are any other comments to share on AOR, and to thank everyone who participated. Special thanks to sheriz6 who brought up the idea of reading AOR together.

  • lemonhead101
    15 years ago

    Would anyone be interested in doing "Crossing to Safety" as a discussion like this one? Has anyone read this? Is it as good?

    Thanks to Thyrkas and everyone who joined in for a well-prepared discussion with lots of questions along the way. It definitely helped me get more out of the book than me just reading it so thanks!

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    I am reading "Crossing to Safety" right now and will want to discuss it. It is very different from AOR so far, but I am liking it.

  • sheriz6
    15 years ago

    Thyrkas, thanks for bringing up this book to begin with, and leading such an interesting discussion. I don't know if I would have ever gotten AOR out of the TBR pile otherwise, and what a wonderful story I would have missed! I'd definitely be interested in reading Crossing to Safety, too.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    thyrkas, thanks for leading such an interesting and inspired discussion on AOR.

    I am almost finished with "Crossing to Safety." I could not put it down and read into the wee hours of the morning. I find that I become so emotionally caught up in the issues of Stegner's characters. I really feel their pain! Not every author can affect me this way.

    I would like to ask any of you what I should read next by Stegner? He has quite a long list of novels. Where to begin? What do you recommend?

  • georgia_peach
    15 years ago

    AoR is the only book I've read by Stegner, but I would be interested in reading his NF book about John Wesley Powell, as I generally like that kind of book.

    You are a bad influence. I had 30 minutes to kill last night waiting for my daughter's girl scout meeting to finish, so I ran up to the bookstore and bought Crossing to Safety. It will probably be December or Janaury before I get to it, though. Glad to hear you liked it as well.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    I stayed up til 5 a.m. and finished "Crossing to Safety." I realize now that this was not a re-read. I had started the book many years ago but never finished it. I do not want to spoil this for anyone but it ends on a rather dismal note, but is also very thought-provoking. Stegner's style has gotten under my skin and I want to read even more of his work. I look forward to a possible discussion in future.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    I'm bringing this thread up so that possible late-comers can add their input....

  • sable_ca
    15 years ago

    Hello, Woodnymph! I was alerted to your message by someone who lurks at HT. I have nothing to add to this discussion; it's pretty complete. I loved AOR for three reasons. First, it was a fascinating family history, tragic indeed but it rang true emotionally. Second, his link to the New England Transcendentalists intrigued me, as I had read nothing more about them since Emerson, in high school. And most of all, his description of the West is nonpareil, especially for those of us who live here and have traveled throughout the region. Whether it's the desert or the Sierra Nevadas or the Montana sky, Stegner makes it sing!

    Did you know that he's also a well-regarded historian? I have his book "The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail" in my TBR pile, and am thinking of reading it next. He would tell that story with no glossing over the blemishes, but with much sympathy.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    15 years ago

    Hi Sable! I was hoping you would join in. I left a message for you over on the HT "conversations" side of that forum. I did not know that Stegner was a well-regarded historian. I agree that the link with the New England Transcendalists is fascinating. I want to read the book mentioned above about the actual woman whose life the novel was based on.

    What did you think of Stegner's "Crossing to Safety"? I liked it a great deal, but it is not in the same classic mode as AOR, in my opinion.

    Do keep in touch!

  • sable_ca
    15 years ago

    Woodnymph - I haven't read Crossing to Safety, although what I'm seeing on this thread makes it tempting. I read very little fiction, other than mysteries and thrillers when I need a break; otherwise it's pretty much non-fiction, mostly history and biography. That's why I don't contribute to this forum too often, although I do like to read people's opinions here.