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Wings Great Reads: Angle of Repose Hardcover – Jun 1 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Random House Value Publishing (June 1 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517184893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517184899
  • Shipping Weight: 789 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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Now I believe they will leave me alone. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Krichman on Dec 11 2002
Format: Paperback
Angle of repose, as defined in Stegner's Pulitzer Prize-winning work, is the angle of incline along a riverbed at which dirt and rocks will not slide. More profoundly, it serves as a permeating theme throughout this novel about an elderly amputee who is confined to a wheelchair but remains determined to pursue an independent and active existence. He is historian Lyman Ward, grandson of Susan and Oliver Ward, and through the prism of historical analysis he presents the lives of his grandparents. As he peruses his grandmother's letters to her best friend, we learn of Susan and Oliver's adventures and challenges as pioneers of America's frontier. Oliver, an engineer, dedicates himself first to mining and later to irrigation projects. Susan, an artist and writer, captures the rugged beauty of 19th century western America in her work, while struggling to maintain a marriage and a family under difficult conditions.
This novel, at its heart, is a work about personal endurance and self-discovery. As Lyman explores the hardships of his grandparents' life, he comes to learn more about his own ability to stand firm in the face of difficulty. Lyman's narrative voice is wise, objective, and admiring, at times reminiscent of Philip Roth's Nathan Zuckerman. Through this voice Stegner has managed to capture that elusive feel of what it means to be human and to truly live. His characters ring true in all their beauty and all their flaws. And his message is a powerful one - that life can be a sedentary existence or an active one, and that it is our decision how we react to the circumstances of our environment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ian Herriott on Nov. 22 2002
Format: Paperback
I have far more books on my shelves than I've read. This one I have read, greedily. It is as seductive as reading old letters from an attic. And essentially that is what the main character, Lyman Ward (crippled by disease, seperated from his wife), is doing, taking the voluminous letters of his grandmother's roughshod and proud experience in the West, and forming some semblance of her life, and what it means to his (which he consider's essentially over . . .). There really are two stories here, and to toggle from one to the other (from the late 1800's to the 1970's) and to say such true things about people and America, is genius on the part of Stegner.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore on Nov. 19 2003
Format: Paperback
One of Wallace Stegner's greatest peeves as a Western writer was the myth of the West that was promulgated in the bulk of the books about the region. The vast majority of Western novels and movies tended to perpetuate utter myths about the West, instead of grappling with the West itself. Perhaps no American writer knew the West as well as Stegner, not excepting his student Edward Abbey. An inveterate hiker and explorer, he camped or walked nearly every area in the West. He wrote innumerable books about the West and took time to visit every spot he wrote about. For instance, in writing of John Wesley Powell's trip down the Colorado, he retraced his route to gain the greatest possible grasp of what he saw. He traveled the trails that the Mormons and others took in relocating to the West. He was one of the few people to hike along Glen Canyon before Lake Powell consumed it. Moreover, he was raised in the West, spending his childhood on what remained on the frontier.
Given all this, I find it utterly astonishing that a couple of reviewers should have the impression that he does not know whereof he wrote. For instance, one reviewer wrote, "Bottom line: the West has a geography, and its denizens a temperament, that demands that we write and read about it in a way that does justice to the hard realities of life in a barren place." Why he would imagine that Stegner, who was intimately familiar with the geography, was one of its denizens, and knew first hand the hard realities of the place by spending his childhood in a variety of barren places, utterly baffles me. I suspect that it is because the book writes about the REAL West and not the West of the Imagination.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By LD on Jan. 30 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Beautifully written, the story moves seamlessly from the present day back to the mid 1800’s as a man traces the life of his grandmother.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bobby Jasak on Oct. 29 2002
Format: Paperback
Not since Clarissa walked onto her steps in "The Hours," have I immediately loved a character as I did Susan Ward. The life of Susan, as told by her grandson, starts out with much vibrance and excitement. But the parallel story of her grandson's life gives the story an edge- and a glimpse into why he is in pursuit of understanding (and documenting) his grandmother.
The conclusion of these lives (to which we are privy) is not simple nor cheap. But it does stand apart from the rest of the novel. And it does not offer comfort- but rather a glimpse into a set of lives that might be more real than we'd like to admit.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Eugeni on Feb. 4 2004
Format: Paperback
A retired professor, confined to a wheelchair in his family home in northern California, collects notes to write his grandmother's life story and ends up telling his own.
There is no raucous action, no grand finale, no hysterical laughter. The book's strength comes not from the plot but from the way the words are set out. Many characters float in and out of this exploration of life in the West but it is Lyman Ward, the modern narrator, whose tale binds the entire work. And Lyman Ward is dying. Having sensed tragedy on several levels and enraptured by the language, I was in no hurry to finish Angle of Repose.
At times I put the book down, uninterested in finding out how the characters' often miserable lives turned out. The ending is a blur. But all of those reservations are overshadowed by detailed recollections of life in the mining towns of New Almaden, Colorado, Idaho, and Grass Valley, and stunning descriptions of desolation, heartbreak, love, and trust. I loved how the story shifted from then to "now" and back again, sometimes leaving you wondering about time and space for a page or two. I grew up around many of the places Stegner includes in the book and I am grateful for his descriptions of life before the shopping centers, highways, and relatively easy living came to strip away the raw nature and risk involved in living there. Controversy surrounding Stegner's un-acknowledged use of the Foote letters as basis for Susan Ward's writings does not detract from the best parts of the book (and there are so many of them). His writing is rich and luscious beyond (my) words. Even if you don't finish it, read some of this book and revel in the phrasing.
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