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Angle of Repose tells the story of Lyman Ward, a retired professor of history and author of books about the Western frontier, who returns to his ancestral home of Grass Valley, California, in the Sierra Nevada. Wheelchairbound with a crippling bone disease and dependent on others for his every need, Ward is nonetheless embarking on a search of monumental proportions - to rediscover his grandmother, now long dead, who made her own journey to Grass Valley nearly a hundred years earlier. Like other great quests in literature, Lyman Ward's investigation leads him deep into the dark shadows of his own life.
Stegner's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel--the magnificent story of four generations in the life of an American family. A wheelchair-bound retired historian embarks on a monumental quest: to come to know his grandparents, now long dead. The unfolding drama of the story of the American West sets the tone for Stegner's masterpiece. Â
About The Author Among the other novels of Wallace Stegner (1909--1993) are The Big Rock Candy Mountain (1943), Joe Hill (1950), All the Little Live Things (1967), The Spectator Bird (1976); Recapitulation (1979), and Crossing to Safety (1987). From 1945 to 1971 Stegner taught at Stanford University, where the writing program is named after him.
Wallace Stegner was born in 1909 in Lake Mills, Iowa. The son of Scandinavian immigrants, he traveled with his parents and brother all over the West-to North Dakota, Washington, Saskatchewan, Montana, and Wyoming-before settling in Salt Lake City in 1921. Many of the landscapes he encountered in his peripatetic youth figure largely in his work, as do characters based on his stern father and athletic, outgoing brother. Stegner received most of his education in Utah, graduating from the University in 1930. He furthered his education at the University of Iowa, where he received a master's and a doctoral degree. He married Mary Stuart Page in 1934, and for the next decade the couple followed Wallace's teaching career-to the University of Wisconsin, Harvard, and eventually to Stanford University, where he founded the creative writing program, and where he was to remain until his retirement in 1971. A number of his creative writing students have become some of today's most well respected writers, including Wendell Berry, Thomas McGuane, Raymond Carver, Edward Abbey, Robert Stone, and Larry McMurty.
Throughout his career and after, Stegner's literary output was tremendous. His first novel, Remembering Laughter, was published in 1937. By the time of his death in 1993 he had published some two dozen works of fiction, history, biography, and essays. Among his many literary prizes are the Pulitzer Prize for Angle of Repose (1971) and the National Book Award for The Spectator Bird (1976). His collection of essays, Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs (1992), was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle award. Although his fiction deals with many universal themes, Stegner is primarily recognized as a writer of the American West. Much of his literature deals with debunking myths of the West as a romantic country of heroes on horseback, and his passion for the terrain and its inhabitants have earned him the title "The Dean of Western Letters." He was one of the few true Men of Letters in this generation. An historian, essayist, short story writer and novelist, as well as a leading environmental writer. Although always connected in people's minds with the West, he had a long association with New England. Many short stories and one of his most successful novels, Crossing to Safety, are set in Vermont, where he had a summer home for many years. Another novel, The Spectator Bird, takes place in Denmark. An early environmentalist, he actively championed the region's preservation and was instrumental-with his nowfamous 'Wilderness Letter'-in the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act. Honest and straightforward, educated yet unpretentious, cantankerous yet compassionate, Wallace Stegner was an enormous presence in the American literary landscape, a man who wrote and lived with ferocity, energy, and integrity. Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).
Reviews Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This long, thoughtful novel about a retired historian who researches and writes about his pioneer grandparents garnered Stegner a Pulitzer Prize. (July) Booknews
A reprint of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel first published by Doubleday, 1971. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com) Publishers Weekly
It is at first disconcerting that the narrator sounds half the age of the author's narrator: Lyman Ward is an elderly, severely crippled historian at odds with his wife and children over his ability to live alone and write. But Mark Bramhall's comparative youth is soon forgotten as he leads us into the saga of intertwined generations. His pacing, his characterizations, and his convincing emotional repertoire embed us in this 1971 Pulitzer Prize winner that is in no way dated. Stegner's heroine is Ward's grandmother, Susan Burling Ward, a 19th-century writer and artist living in the rough mining towns of the West with her idealistic engineer husband. Bramhall's Susan is sometimes too
girlish, but this, too, is a small matter; overall, he offers us a fine reading of a superb book. A Penguin Classics paperback. (Mar.)
I enjoyed this book mainly because of the development of the characters.The narrator's life has become limited by his physical condition and he explores his world through the lives of others. He struggles for independence in a dependent body. He begins to live the story he is researching and writing from his grandparents letters. He draws us into their lives as they leave a cultured life in the East to find a life in the West. The reader becomes involved with their struggles to survive and to love each other. At the same time we become involved with the narrator and his personal demons of pain, limitation and isolation. The story flows back and forward through time and relationships and all the while feels real and solid-like the title of the book.
I read this novel after having enjoyed one of his other works, 'Crossing to Safety'. I enjoyed this novel and am awed by Stegner's abilities to paint a picture of 2 very different eras in time and the people who lived in them. Both eras are historical to a modern reader as the narrator is a retired professor dealing with the radical changes in the 1970s. I do however believe that I enjoyed 'Crossing to Safety' more as this book was very long and it seems that the same themes were hammered away at too frequently.
Wallace Stegner's ability to graphically describe both settings within this book brings each character to life. The reader, male or female, is completely drawn into the story. I didn't want this one to end.
Read An Excerpt INTRODUCTION
Wallace Stegner has said of his epic novel, "It's perfectly clear that if every writer is born to write one story, that's my story." It is a testament to the power of Stegner's prose and vision that Angle of Repose, winner of the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, can be appreciated as America's story as well. Based on the correspondence of the little-known 19th century writer, Mary Hallock Foote, the novel's heroes represent opposing but equally strong strains of the American ideal. Susan Burling Ward is refined, educated, and strong-willed. Her husband, Oliver, is a handsome adventurer of cruder habits, who brings a pistol when he comes courting, yet who is humbled in the presence of Susan's sophistication. As we follow Susan on her first journey across the young country-"not to join a new society but to endure it"-we experience the West through the eyes of a true easterner, horrified at the lack of culture, the quickly fabricated cities, the dust, dirt and heat. Susan eventually finds herself able to appreciate the raw beauty of her new surroundings, and is even successful in building comfortable homes for her family. Yet throughout her married life she defines herself through her east coast roots, debating Oliver's worthiness as a husband and provider, and assessing what she has given up in exchange for a life of adventure and uncertainty. Â ABOUT WALLACE STEGNER Wallace Stegner was born in 1909 in Lake Mills, Iowa. The son of Scandinavian immigrants, he traveled with his parents and brother all over the West-to North Dakota, Washington, Saskatchewan, Montana, and Wyoming-before
settling in Salt Lake City in 1921. Many of the landscapes he encountered in his peripatetic youth figure largely in his work, as do characters based on his stern father and athletic, outgoing brother. Stegner received most of his education in Utah, graduating from the University in 1930. He furthered his education at the University of Iowa, where he received a master's and a doctoral degree. He married Mary Stuart Page in 1934, and for the next decade the couple followed Wallace's teaching career-to the University of Wisconsin, Harvard, and eventually to Stanford University, where he founded the creative writing program , and where he was to remain until his retirement in 1971. A number of his creative writing students have become some of today's most well respected writers, including Wendell Berry, Thomas McGuane, Raymond Carver, Edward Abbey, Robert Stone, and Larry McMurty. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What do you think of Stegner's narrative technique, i.e., his use of a contemporary historian to tell Susan Ward's story? Is Lyman Ward a reliable narrator? How would this novel be different if Lyman's own story were excluded?
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