It seems to describe the loose wandering of the Ward family as they try to carve out a civilized existence in the West and, Susan hopes, to return to the East as successes. Canal banks are sometimes simply piled mounds of dirt. Slanted walls of dirt are left at the angle of repose after the canal is built. Small disturbances to the dirt can cause it to slide down. Plot summary[ edit ] Lyman Ward narrates a century after the fact.
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Dana Szabo Great review! I learned alot and now want to continue to learn more about Mary. Wallace Stegners Pulitzer Prize winner from is my most recent example.
Of course, Goodreads reviewers also know the pressure involved in justifying the choice. So what makes this one so good? As befits a top ten inclusion, here are ten factors that come to mind. A Damn Good Story Lyman Ward is a former professor of history with a bone disease that put him in a Fellow Goodreaders know that feeling of exhilaration when a new entrant pushes its way onto a top-ten-of-all-time list.
A Damn Good Story Lyman Ward is a former professor of history with a bone disease that put him in a wheelchair. She was an artist and later a writer transplanted from her genteel life in New York to be with her husband, the earnest engineer, out West. He specialized in big projects: mines, irrigation canals, etc.
His integrity prevented the material success he would have liked as a source of comfort for Susan. She created what culture she could in mining towns, and had become known for her illustrations and magazine articles about life in the West.
Stegner had permission to use real letters of a writer and painter from that era, lending the narrative an authentic voice. As their family dramas unfolded, Lyman had a few related episodes of self-discovery, all very cleverly done. Complex Characters What book could ever be considered great without an interesting cast? Starting out, Lyman seemed like a stock character — the crusty recluse — but he becomes more central and more nuanced as the book goes on.
The way we see his grandparents through his eyes tells us a lot about him. To be honest, early in his narration I was put off by his invented dialog and false omniscience, but later, after he copped to this as a way to make them more real, I actually liked the device.
All the characters, the ones on the periphery included, seemed very credible, with emotions that rang true and unexpected depths that only a first-rate writer could have imagined. Lyman, with his background in history, was a very knowledgeable narrator. He had remarkable tunnel vision literally, since his disease prevented him from turning his head trained on his subjects.
Conflict Clashes were easy to come by when the refined East civilized society met the rough-and-tumble West opportunity. Tightrope walks were performed between desire and moral responsibility, the practical and the romantic, and in the case of Lyman and a curvy young assistant, the stodgy academic and the free-spirited hippie. Was he more like his grandmother or grandfather? It turned out to be a key question. Institutions The give-and-take of a marriage was a central theme.
As Stegner himself said in a Paris Review interview: Susan is more talented in many ways than Oliver. She shows off better. But while I wrote that book, thinking that I was writing about her as a heroine, I came to the end of it thinking maybe he is the hero because there is a flaw in her, a flaw of snobbery. On top of this, Lyman reflected on his own former marriage. Would he forgive his ex-wife for what she did to him? Should he have done more to prevent it from happening in the first place?
More good questions both for him and for us. There is another physical law that teases me, too: the Doppler Effect. The sound of anything coming at you — a train, say, or the future — has a higher pitch than the sound of the same thing going away. If you have perfect pitch and a head for mathematics you can compute the speed of the object by the interval between its arriving and departing sounds.
I have neither perfect pitch nor a head for mathematics, and anyway who wants to compute the speed of history? Like all falling bodies, it constantly accelerates. But I would like to hear your life as you heard it, coming at you, instead of hearing it as I do, a somber sound of expectations reduced, desires blunted, hopes deferred or abandoned, chances lost, defeats accepted, griefs borne.
Powerful Descriptions What was clever here was how natural it was for Susan, the artist, to describe and even embellish the new sights she would see out West. Her eye for detail never got tedious. There were countless little analogies, too, that made for a pleasant experience.
Briscoe labored toward them. Here are a few, ranging from aphorism and homily: It is an easy mistake to think that non-talkers are non-feelers. Home is a notion that only the nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend. Civilizations grow by agreements and accommodations and accretions, not by repudiations.
Quiet desperation is another name for the human condition. To my mind, Stegner is a true master of the craft. Every sentence has heft, yet never at the expense of flow. Early on I thought Stegner is like a grown-up when so many others are mere children in comparison.
His candle-power shines brightly on every page. If cumulative insight into human experience floats your boat, ships ahoy.
ANGLE OF REPOSE
Dana Szabo Great review! I learned alot and now want to continue to learn more about Mary. Wallace Stegners Pulitzer Prize winner from is my most recent example. Of course, Goodreads reviewers also know the pressure involved in justifying the choice. So what makes this one so good? As befits a top ten inclusion, here are ten factors that come to mind.
Angle of Repose