Angle of Repose (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) by Wallace Stegner

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By Wallace Stegner

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Example text

At heart, Lyman tells us, he was a builder, not a raider. This is a thoughtful book with a rich panoply of characters, both major and minor, and one that explores many themes, themes that bring the novel into the center of our culture. Like The Great Gatsby, it helps us define who we, as a people in this new land, are. Oliver in his gallant romanticism is our Gatsby, and Susan in her own romantic snobbish world is our Daisy, and ne’er the twain shall meet until at the end they find their angle of repose.

This rootlessness, his mother’s isolation, and the fact that he could not bring friends to his own home further reinforced his sense of the importance of family and community We can see this background reflected in Angle of Repose’s concerns: for the effects of cultural transplantation, for the questions of what holds a family together and what drives it apart, and for having roots, in both family and place, and knowing about them. Wallace worked his way not only through college but through graduate school as well.

Together his parents would seem to have been the archetypal western couple. In later years, as a writer, Wallace saw them as representing the exploiter, on the one hand, and the civilizer on the other. Although they are quite different in character and background, we can see Oliver and Susan Ward in their roles in Angle of Repose as dim reflections of Stegner’s parents. ) When asked by an interviewer if the life of Mary Hallock Foote, the model for the heroine of Angle of Repose, had reminded him of the life of Elsa Mason, the mother in the semiautobiographical The Big Rock Candy Mountain, Stegner said,Not consciously.

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