Wednesday, September 06, 2006

87. "Angle of Repose" ~ Wallace Stegner

I had to remind myself that I chose this thick, small-printed novel for a reason - it won the Pulitzer Prize the year I was born. Where was the world, then? What seemed important, at least to the literary circles?

I found I wasn't the only one interested in history. Lyman Ward, after suffering massive pain in his cervical column and a lopped-off leg, needs to understand the history of his grandmother. Susan Burling Ward, a romantic dreamer, writer, artist, meets Oliver Ward, a crude, quiet engineer who wants to conquer the West. He comes courting with his massive pistol and later sends an elk's head as a gift.

Why did this match work, wonders Lyman. And how?

As a historian, he claims to maintain objectivity, yet the reason for this analysis of a marriage comes after his own wife left him for the surgeon who removed Lyman's leg. However, Stegner's prose is aching in its loveliness. The descriptions of western civilization (or lack thereof) is stunning. As a California girl, he brought back the tastes and smells of the Pacific; as a former New Mexican, he reminded me of pueblos and sage.

The term, "angle of repose" is easy to find out via Google or Wikipedia, but I preferred to wait until the climax, and I urge you to do the same. Quite simply, as Stegner said, "It's perfectly clear that if every writer is born to write one story, this is my story."

4.85 out of 5.0 Spanish Town Cocktails.


Bibliolatrist said...

Is this the book you said you'd have to revise your rating scale for?

Kristin Dodge said...

Ahem. I thought I'd have to revise my rating scale. So far, so good.