A quiet and surprisingly powerful novel which explores the deep ties of friendship and the potent internal landscape of marriage. The writing is beautiful and thoughtful, successfully evoking a sense of time passed while still being strikingly relevant and moving. The introduction by Terry Tempest Williams is insightful and eloquent (as always).
"How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these? Where are the things novelists seize upon and readers expect? Where is the high life, the conspicuous waste, the violence, the kinky sex, the death wish? Where are the suburban infidelities, the promiscuities, the convulsive divorces, the alcohol, the drugs, the lost weekends? Where are the hatreds, the political ambitions, the lust for power? Where are speed, noise, ugliness, everything that makes us who we are and makes us recognize ourselves in fiction?"
This is how.
Love this author. Can't wait to read more of his books.
A novel about marriage and friendship. Very quiet, not a lot of drama, but a LOT of feeling. As an academic and writer, the author has a VERY high opinion of his fictional academics and writers, which can come across as smug and self-satisfied.
Stegner's late novel is a quiet view of a long friendship between two couples. Framed by a single day, looking back over years of this friendship, its ups and downs, life's ups and downs, it's a stunning achievement. It's told from the point of view of Larry, a novelist, who sees the world through the people who inhabit it. He is also a lover of nature, who in the first few pages describes a walk down the road he "loves best in the world." This walk parallels the walk he and his wife Sally have taken over the decades with their friends Sid and Charity. He couldn't have foreseen in their beginning either how their lives would turn out, or how he would feel about any of it. No young writer could have created these characters or written this book. I think it's best appreciated by readers with some life experience under their belts too. Gorgeous writing.
"What ever happened to the passion we all had to improve ourselves, live up to our potential, leave a mark on the world? Our hottest arguments were always about how we could contribute. We did not care about the rewards. We were young and earnest."
Wallace Stegner was equally admired for his fiction and for his non-fiction, which focused on the American West and conservation.
"Crossing to Safety" is one of his best loved novels, written shortly before his death in 1993. It's the story of two academic couples and can stand as one of the great campus/teaching novels, along with "Lucky Jim," Williams's "Stoner," and Russo's "Straight Man." There are echoes of Updike's and Cheever's restless middle class characters but Stegner is a more generous, less anxious writer than either of them. The title comes from a Frost poem. Also see "Angle of Repose" and "Big Rock Candy Mountain." Introduction by Terry Tempest Williams and afterwards by T.H. Watkins, who was a friend of Stegner's.
Not sure what I think yet. I might like it more as I get further into it.
I tried to like this book, but found it to be arrogant academia at its finest.
Party of me says its a book about first-world problems, but the writing is so strong I almost don't care. It reminds me of Annie Dillard's "The Maytrees:" another beautifully-crafted book full of good rural living, large picnics, and meditations on marriage.
Stegner sets out to write a quiet, meditative book without the drama and sensationalism of much modern writing. I'm not sure he succeeds--I don't know that a privileged life well-lived makes for a compelling story, but I appreciate the question.
This book is in my fiction "top five" list. If you like outstanding fiction, don't ask questions; just read it. A beautiful book.
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