All the Little Live Things go inside Books Joe Allston retired literary agent settles with his wife Ruth in a peaceful country home in California Soon two people arrive who will upset his equilibri
All the Little Live Things go inside Books Joe Allston, retired literary agent, settles with his wife Ruth in a peaceful country home in California. Soon two people arrive who will upset his equilibrium for very different reasons. The first of these is Jim Peck, a young hippy whom Joe discovers on his property. Egged on by Ruth he reluctantly allows Jim to camp there. It isn’t long before Jim has a thriving community of acolytes. He is the bane of Joe’s life, but Joe hesitates to evict him from the property for a number of reasons. This is how Joe perceives Jim: “Teetering, tiptoeing his padded boots to balance the cycle (surely the feet inside those boots were cloven), he sat and looked at us. He was young, no more than twenty-two or -three. His hair was long and tousled, even matted where the helmet, now hung on a handlebar, had crushed it down. It crawled over his collar, and was pushed forward on his forehead, hiding his horns. His brown eyes, extraordinarily large and bright, gleamed out of that excess of hair, and his teeth, badly spaced, the eyeteeth long and pointed, were bared in a hanging, watchful, half-crazy grin. His coveralls and his shaggy head were splashed with green and gold as the leaves of the bay tree above him moved in the wind. He creaked like a saddle when he shifted, and he gave off an odor like a neglected gym locker.”“Who could persuade him that the Folk who lived simple lives and sang simple songs were also the people who discriminated, segregated, lynched, fought with switchblades, vulgarized everything they touched, saved for a rainy day, bought on credit, were suckers for slogans, loved gadgets, waved the flag, were sentimental about Mother, knew no folksongs, hated beards, and demanded the dismissal of school superintendents who permitted The Catcher in the Rye to appear on high-school reading lists?”One of the reasons for Joe’s antipathy is that his own deceased son had had similar anti-establishment inclinations, and Jim’s presence touches a very raw nerve.The other person who upsets Joe’s apple cart is Marian Catlin, an absolutely charming young woman who has moved into the next door property with her husband. Before long both Ruth and Joe adore Marian. This affection will result in much heartache. This heartache, together with the bewilderment, anger and guilt over his son’s senseless death, builds to a crescendo of pain for Joe as he considers where he might have gone wrong as a parent. At times Joe descends into the bleak and bitter.Once again I was captivated by the beauty of Stegner’s prose. Whether it is a long lyrical description of nature, an angry outburst or a witty one-liner as Joe ruminates on life, love and death, Stegner’s prose is brilliant.I was also struck by the many contrasts in the novel:#Joe represents the Establishment; Jim represents anti-establishment.#Joe and Ruth live in a beautiful spot, but there are various elements of ugliness around them with regard to neighbours.#Their garden is full of singing birds, but then one hears the sound of a shotgun and dead pigeons come fluttering to the ground to the cacophonic sound of barking dogs.#The garden has beautiful flowers, but there are wasps and tarantulas about.#Joe is plagued by gophers destroying his garden, and as he goes after a gopher he kills a King snake in the process, which very visibly has the gopher in its stomach and Joe realises that he has actually killed an ally. There are snakes in Joe’s paradise - both physically and metaphorically.#Marian has a love for all the little live things, and she prefers to have the indigenous over the exotic in her garden. Ruth cultivates roses as well as other flowers.#Joe and Ruth have contrasting personalities, and they compliment each other perfectly.And once again I cannot resist sharing some quotes:“Sympathy I have failed in, stoicism I have barely passed. But I have made straight A in irony—that curse, that evasion, that armor, that way of staying safe while seeming wise.”“Better a country fox with a hemorrhoid than a city fox with a pile. Aesop must have said it.”“Lyrical is the word. Dawns with choirs of meadow larks, noons celebrated by our mockingbird friends, afternoons that go down in veils of blue to the sweet sad Tennysonian intonings of mourning doves.”“Think how often beauty and delicacy and grace are choked out by weeds.”“Yet he spoke some of my opinions, in his incomparably crackbrained way, and I was uneasily aware that in putting him down I was pinning myself.”““These people are so hell-bent to be individuals that they don’t even exist except as gangs…””“He is dangerous, too, and all the more so because, as I now recognize, he has no more malice than he has sense, and has besides a considerable dedication to beliefs that he unquestionably considers virtuous. Dangerousness is not necessarily a function of malicious intent.”“Could I stand to see humane feelings and noble ideals come half-baked from that oven? I doubted it.”“It’s the beginning of wisdom when you recognize that the best you can do is choose which rules you want to live by, and it’s persistent and aggravated imbecility to pretend you can live without any.”“Well, so the more he changed the more he was the same thing.”“There is no way to step off the treadmill. It is all treadmill.”###This novel is the prequel to The Spectator Bird. Wallace Stegnerhttps://www.goodreads.com/review/show.... Joe Allston, the retired literary agent of Stegner s National Book Award winning novel, The Spectator Bird, returns in this disquieting and keenly observed novel Scarred by the senseless death of their son and baffled by the engulfing chaos of the 1960s, Allston and his wife, Ruth, have left the coast for a California retreat And although their new home looks like Eden,Joe Allston, the retired literary agent of Stegner s National Book Award winning novel, The Spectator Bird, returns in this disquieting and keenly observed novel Scarred by the senseless death of their son and baffled by the engulfing chaos of the 1960s, Allston and his wife, Ruth, have left the coast for a California retreat And although their new home looks like Eden, it also has serpents Jim Peck, a messianic exponent of drugs, yoga, and sex and Marian Catlin, an attractive young woman whose otherworldly innocence is far appealing and far dangerous.. Bestseller Books All the Little Live Things Wallace Stegner was a very meditative writer. This, I think, is why some people have a hard time getting through his books. There's a lot of rumination on the part of the characters, while the plot sits on the back burner. With some authors this drives me crazy, but with Stegner I somehow have the patience to stay with the writing and savor it. I think it's because he articulated so many truths and feelings I've personally experienced. He handled difficult themes in such a soft way, with the perfect combination of intellect and heart.All the Little Live Things and The Spectator Bird are companion novels about Joe Allston, a retired literary agent who has moved to California with his wife Ruth. It doesn't matter which book is read first. The two books complement each other and fill in the blanks as needed. The only characters that are constants are Joe and Ruth, and the painful memory of their son Curtis, whose life and death still haunts them. If you need to be strictly chronological, then read All the Little Live Things first.
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