Wednesday, December 11, 2013
68. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
Dare I say it, dare I rate it, with a month still left in the year, as my read of the year? There have been few contenders this year, and I have generally refrained from making absolute statements like these, I have tried to take the easier way out these last two years, by rating my Top 5 reads of the year rather than an absolute 1 or 3. I will take my chances, I will bear the consequences, the shame of editions in my thread, my blog, my review, and declare this one to be the winner, an absolute read, a work of perfection.
I exaggerate perhaps, and yet sometimes hyperbole is the best figure of speech to come near the true magnitude of the event, its worth to the singer of an ode, not always an absolute measure, and yet more relevant to the cause.
This was a book about nothing really, an old man with a stump sitting all day in a wheelchair, reading letters and correspondences of and belonging to his grandmother, tracking, plotting, jotting, piecing together her life events, adding a missing piece or two out of his own imagination, creating a biography no one would perhaps read, not even his own son. One cannot probably come up with a duller story, a theme so bankrupt in drama, that it would be a chore to read a 50 pages worth of short story, let alone a full work of 569 pages. Well, apart from the fact that it wasn't...
The story tracks the life of a cultured lady, a lady of art, of creation, travelling across the barren acres of the wild wild west, a life away from what she was accustomed to, away from whoever she held near and dear, away from the accomplishments and accolades she could have gained, the pleasures and experiences she forsook, in her free will, an action which would cause her lifelong misery and bitterness. In the background is the equally shattered life of her grandson, her biographer, in some ways set in his ideas as much as his grandmother, in others, even more so. A moralist of sorts, instinctive to judge, headstrong, unforgiving, disappointed father, heartbroken husband, proud son, prouder grandson.
There are probably a dozen other characters, some short, others shorter and amazingly, they are all fleshed out. The screen time, the page length, not withstanding. We know those characters more intimately than protagonists of tomes. The power of the written word, good writing, excellent writing!
This one was a strong recommendation from my Classics buddy, Mac, and I am so glad, so very glad, that I took up his suggestion, late by over a year, better than never.