31 May 2013

the book i wanted to exist

It's like he knew what he was doing.


"How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these? Where are the things that novelists seize upon and readers expect? ... Where are the suburban infidelities, the promescuities, the convulsive divorces, the alcohol, the drugs, the lost weekends? ... 

The people we are talking about are hangovers from a quieter time. They have been able to buy quiet, and distance themselves from industrial ugliness. ... Their intelligence and thier civilized tradition protect them from most of the temptations, indiscretions, vulgarities, and passionate errors that pester and perturb most of us." 

Said the narrator of Crossing to Safety, as a reason not to write the book he apparently decided to write eventually. And true, some could call it a boring book. In fact every time I tried to tell Nate about it, he fell asleep: during dinner, on the patio, brushing his teethzzzzzz. But listen! It's not incredibly boring after all--there are disappointment, peril, hope, luck, world travel, polio, cancer, a mountain summertime getaway paradise (which as you may know, is an idea I am obsessed with), picnics involving steaks, a giant car and millions of dollars involved. Boring I think not.

And the fact is I've been wondering why it is so hard to find really well-written books written in the last 50 years that are about people whose traditional choices help them through hard times instead of making them look like fools.

I can think of two other books that helped me feel relieved that I didn't have to go and bring a book like that into creation: Joy in the Morning (Betty Smith) and The Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro).

I read a review that called Crossing to Safety the anti-Gatsby. Which made me laugh.

And now for the summing up of the 
1. Meet millionaires! Become their best friends forever!!!!*
2. Don't always take the compass route. Your best friend forever might have contracted polio!
3. If you're going to read Wallace Stegner, DO NOT read Angle of Repose. Read this!

*This one is especially relevant for you, Jesse & Catherine. Find the Ann Arbor young couple millionaires and stick like glue. They will make your life more awesome and hopefully provide you with a summer vacation spot at their cabin in the mountains every year. Where you will invite me.


julis said...

Angle of Repose pretty much ruined Wallace Stegner for me. But this is such a compelling review that I will attempt FOR THE LAST TIME, WALLACE! to read this book this summer. Because it is now officially summer for me. yay.

And I second the notion that Jesse & Catherine should find wealthy friends, who will establish them in a mountain cabin so Jesse can write, and we can all visit on alternating weekends. On the weekends that aren't mine, I'll be at my beach house.

melissa said...

try it, mom! it's worth a shot. at the worst you'll just fall asleep.

julis said...

Dad says to try Mormon Country. It should be in the library, but if not he has stashed ours in his office. He thinks you'll like it, too.

Nate said...

Mr. Stenger has great hair.

s@d said...

Crossing to Safety is in my top ten. (all books read) #1 of Wallace Stegner books read, & I've read most of them. Thanks for your great review & for reminding me how much I love it. I liked Angle of Repose. But I could be considered a Stegner groupie.