After a hiatus of several months, we met this past week to discuss Vonnegut’s collection of essays. It was nice to be back together again and I’ll do my best to keep our meetings more regular.
It’s no surprise that many, if not all of us, are big fans of Wallace Stegner. In the past we have read The Big Rock Candy Mountain, Recapitulation, Wolf Willow, and I think Crossing to Safety. We also took a field trip to Salt Lake City where we perused some of the archives of Stegner’s things at the University of Utah, visited several of the places he lived, and went to the cemetery where his parents and brother are buried. The other night we got talking about Stegner (again), and decided to do a Stegner marathon this summer. Anja is our resident Stegner expert so she compiled a list of books for us to read, alternating fiction with nonfiction. It is an ambitious list, but the plan is to read as much as we can, and meet each month to discuss what we have read. Here is the list, in the order that we will read.
Angle of Repose
The Sound of Mountain Water
Conversations with Wallace Stegner on Western History and Literature (1983)
The Spectator Bird
All The Little Live Things (seems to be a sequel)
The Uneasy Chair: A Biography of Bernard DeVoto
Marking the Sparrows Fall
A Shooting Star
Collected Stories of Wallace Stegner
The Gathering of Zion
The Women on the Wall
Clarence Edward Dutton: An appraisal
Below are short summaries for the first three books (the first two from Amazon, the next from Goodreads). Let’s try to get through these before our next meeting.
Angle of Repose (1971)
Lyman Ward is a retired professor of history, recently confined to a wheelchair by a crippling bone disease and dependent on others for his every need. Amid the chaos of 1970s counterculture he retreats to his ancestral home of Grass Valley, California, to write the biography of his grandmother: an elegant and headstrong artist and pioneer who, together with her engineer husband, made her own journey through the hardscrabble West nearly a hundred years before. In discovering her story he excavates his own, probing the shadows of his experience and the America that has come of age around him.
The Sound of Mountain Water
The essays, memoirs, letters, and speeches collected in The Sound of Mountain Water encompass memoir, nature conservation, history, geography, and literature. Compositions delve into the post-World War II boom that brought the Rocky Mountain West–from Montana and Idaho to Utah and Nevada–into the modern age. Other works feature eloquent sketches of the West’s history and environment, directing our imagination to the sublime beauty of such places as Robbers Roost and Glen Canyon. A final section examines the state of Western literature, of the mythical past and the diminished present, and analyzed the difficulties facing any contemporary Western writer.
Written over a period of twenty-five years, a time in which the West witnessed rapid changes to its cultural and natural heritage, and by a writer and thinker who will always hold a unique position in modern American letters, The Sound of Mountain Water is a hymn to the Western landscape, an affirmation of the hope embodied therein, and a careful and rich investigation of the West’s complex legacy.
Remembering Laughter (1937)
Margaret Stuart, the proud wife of a prosperous Iowa farmer, sets high standards for herself and others. Happy in her marriage, she tries to look the other way when her genial husband, Alec, takes to the bottle. When Elspeth, Margaret’s sister, comes to live with them, the young woman is immediately captivated by the beauty and vitality of the farm, and by the affection she receives from those around her. But as summer turns into fall, and the friendship between Alec and Elspeth deepens, Margaret finds her spirit tested by a series of events that seem as cruel and inevitable as the endless prairie winters.Long out of print, Remembering Laughter (1937) marked Wallace Stegner’s brilliant literary debut
We will meet again Wednesday, June 26, 8:30 pm.