From My Bookshelf: Wallace Stegner

By Lynn Willoughby

Crossing to Safety  –  Wallace Stegner

This novel was a book club choice, published in 1987.  It has …”established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels of the Twentieth Century.”  I think it needs to stay in the twentieth century as it felt very dated.
Basically it is the stories of two couples who meet when the husbands are both teaching at a college in Madison Wisconsin during the Depression.  One couple is scraping along as best they can.  But on their first meeting, something clicks between all four of them and they remain close friends for life.
This is a work of the everyday lives of these people – and very 1980s.  Yes, it is a character study in loyalty and survival and friendship.  But often I just wanted to slap each of them – for never owning their opinions, for their passivity or in Charity’s case, for her arrogance.
The prose is wonderful, as is everything I have read by Stegner.  He tackles American society through the decades, through illness, achievements and most of all friendship.  But none of his characters ever felt quite real to me.  The discussion around a campfire was often ethereal “…the miserable failure of the law of nature to conform  to the dreams of man.”  But whose dream?  What man?  Wealthy academics, one crippled by polio and left to function as well as she can, or a woman whose sense of entitlement, her lack of mothering, her general bossiness to everyone around her???
Not one of my favourite reads.
– Angle of Repose
– The Spectator Bird
…………and many others

Who Knew?

Polio is an infectious disease caused by the polio virus.  It has existed for thousands of years, with depictions in ancient art.  The first vaccine was developed in the 1950s by Dr Jonas Salk.  Apart from the atomic bomb, America’s greatest fear was polio.
In 2013 there were cases in Syria and a public health emergency due to an outbreak in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.