The Spectator Bird

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The Spectator Bird am Books Ever notice how on rare occasions certain writers really stand out for their ability to capture the subtle and complex ways of folks It s usually a reason to celebrate

The Spectator Bird am Books Ever notice how, on rare occasions, certain writers really stand out for their ability to capture the subtle and complex ways of folks? It’s usually a reason to celebrate since these insights are there for us to imbibe. But it may be a source of distress if what’s revealed is a difficult truth. For me, Wallace Stegner is that sort of author, and this book is one I celebra-hate. Actually, hate is too strong a word, even when it’s combined with a good thing. I should say I felt twinges of disappointment when recognizably human elements in the main character’s make-up prevented a greater happiness. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not looking for slants a la Hallmark. I just feel sad about opportunities missed, especially when those doing the missing are characters whose innermost thoughts I’ve been absorbing with interest. I’ve told you about the malaise. I might as well mention a big reason for it (as long as I’m careful not to reveal more than the back cover does). Joe Allston, a crusty 69-year-old former literary agent, and his kindhearted wife Ruth live a rather isolated life in northern California. They had lost their son tragically in surf-boarding accident 20 some years prior. To make matters worse, Joe felt there had been unresolved father-son issues when it happened.The story begins as a postcard arrives from an old friend from a trip Joe and Ruth had taken to Denmark. The extended stay there was, in part, meant as therapy to take their minds off their then-fresh and constant grief. It also allowed Joe to explore the small town where his mother had lived before shipping off to the states and having him. As chance would have it, they stayed with a Danish countess whose diminished circumstances required her to take in boarders. Astrid (the countess) was the one who sent the postcard. This sparked memories of the trip that Joe pursued even more by breaking out a journal he kept at the time. Ruth asked that he read it aloud so that she, too, could take the trip back in time.The first entries in the journal were set on the boat ride over. They had met an older couple, which prompted Joe to write descriptively about their ilk, and about censorious people in general.They sit in lace-curtained parlors and tsk-tsk on an indrawn breath, they know every unwanted pregnancy in town sooner than the girl does, they want English teachers in Augustana College fired for assigning A Farewell to Arms, they wrote the Volstead Act. Once they arrived, the focus of the journal shifts to the countess. They learn that despite her elegance and good breeding, she was getting the cold shoulder from society types. Her estranged husband, unbeknownst to her when they’d been together, had been a Nazi sympathizer. Later into their stay they learn something else that explains the perceptions of her peers, but it would be a spoiler to say any more. I will say that you may or may not buy into this revelation. I decided that for me it was just a side issue, and that the far more important part of the book was Joe’s exploration of self.This self under the scope was very thoroughly studied. Joe’s observational skills as a “spectator”, passively taking things in, were keen enough to recognize himself as a spectator, passively taking things in. This quote was telling:I was reminded of a remark of Willa Cather's, that you can't paint sunlight, you can only paint what it does with shadows on a wall. If you examine a life, as Socrates has been so tediously advising us to do for so many centuries, do you really examine the life, or do you examine the shadows it casts on other lives? Entity or relationships? Objective reality or the vanishing point of a multiple perspective exercise? Prism or the rainbows it refracts? And what if you're the wall? What if you never cast a shadow or rainbow of your own, but have only caught those cast by others?Relatedly, Joe seemed to regret his apparent detachment:That is the way the modern temper would read me. Babbitt, the man who in all his life never did one thing he really wanted to. One of those Blake was scornful of, who controlled their passions because their passions are feeble enough to be controlled. One of those Genteel Tradition characters whose whole pale ethos is subsumed in an act of renunciation.But might there have been times, thinking of what the journal hinted at but omitted, when passions were less tepid? And might actions or inactions in the face of these be even more defining in his life? See, I know the answers to these questions, and the only way you will is to read this masterful book. While I don’t rate this one quite as high as Angle of Repose or Crossing to Safety, that’s a standard few, if any, can surpass. Stegner was just about Joe’s age when he wrote it, and advancing years were a theme. As sour as old Vin de Joe had become, I’d have preferred a cheerier example to live by. Beyond that, lines like this are beginning to hit home:[...] I felt an uneasy adolescent peeking from behind my old-age make-up, as if I were a sixteen-year-old playing Uncle Vanya in the high school play [...]Hey, but at least I wouldn’t call my face a “spiderweb with eyes.” Not yet, anyway. Quibbles aside, here’s the bottom line: Wallace Stegner is the real deal. With him, it’s insight and great writing on every page. I hope you all do yourselves the favor of his wisdom and art.. This tour de force of American literature and a winner of the National Book Award is a profound, intimate, affecting novel from one of the most esteemed literary minds of the last century and a beloved chronicler of the West Joe Allston is a cantankerous, retired literary agent who is, in his own words, just killing time until time gets around to killing me His parentsThis tour de force of American literature and a winner of the National Book Award is a profound, intimate, affecting novel from one of the most esteemed literary minds of the last century and a beloved chronicler of the West Joe Allston is a cantankerous, retired literary agent who is, in his own words, just killing time until time gets around to killing me His parents and his only son are long dead, leaving him with neither ancestors nor descendants, tradition nor ties His job, trafficking the talent of others, has not been his choice He has passed through life as a spectator, before retreating to the woods of California in the 1970s with only his wife, Ruth, by his side When an unexpected postcard from a long lost friend arrives, Allston returns to the journals of a trip he has taken years before, a journey to his mother s birthplace where he once sought a link with his past Uncovering this history floods Allston with memories, both grotesque and poignant, and finally vindicates him of his past and lays bare that Joe Allston has never been quite spectator enough.. Good Ebook The Spectator Bird Sometime in the mid-80’s, I read Wallace Stegner’s All the Little Live Things, which was published in 1967 and set in that decade. Despite being an admirer of his work, I wasn’t impressed. I found his main character, Joe Alston, a retired literary agent pushing sixty and living with his wife in the hills near Palo Alto, California, to be tiresome. How would I describe Joe? How about crabby, curmudgeonly, crotchety, bitter, brooding, acerbic, opinionated, argumentative? Yes, any one of those will do, because they all describe Joe.But then I just finished The Spectator Bird, published in 1976, which returns to the story of Joe and his wife Ruth. Ten years have passed and Joe is now knocking on the door of seventy. But he is the same old Joe (see above). He hasn’t changed, but I have. While Joe is ten years older, I am now thirty years older than when I first met him in All the Little Live Things.As that great philosopher Muhammad Ali once said, “The man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” I was older than twenty when I met Joe and I am older than fifty now, but the principle still applies. Furthermore, I have gained twenty years on him, and though he and I couldn’t be described as soul mates, I do have a better understanding and greater tolerance of him. Some – not all – but some of what he says and believes now makes sense to me.One of the things that makes me more tolerant is that Joe had a rough childhood (as did Stegner) and I don’t think I originally made enough allowance for that fact. He is also unable to come to terms with the death of his only child twenty years earlier, who was described as an over age beach bum who died either due to an accident or suicide. Part of Joe’s grief can be traced to the fact that he and his son were in constant conflict and he feels that he was not a good father and thus was partly responsible for his rebellious son’s death.Furthermore, Joe is not aging gracefully. He thinks to himself at one point that “I am just killing time till time gets around to killing me.” His dark outlook on life is partly due to a heart problem and the pain he experiences from the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, but it is also because he feels that he has lived an empty life. He is both retrospective and introspective; he broods about the past and the present – and the future.Joe feels that he has been more spectator (see title) than actor in his life and in one of his introspective moods he muses to himself:“As for Joe Alston, he has been a wisecracking fellow traveler in the lives of other people, and a tourist in his own. There has not been one significant event in his life that he planned. He has gone downstream like a stick, getting hung up in eddies and getting flushed out again, only half understanding what he floated past, and understanding less with every year. He knows nothing that posterity needs to be told about.”That last sentence is a reference to his wife wanting him to write his memoir. After all, he was an agent for some of the most notable writers of the day. And most important, she thinks that it will keep his mind active and alert and will help cure him of his depression.Joe is intelligent, of course, and he isn’t always a gloomy Gus. When he is in the mood he can be charming and witty. Here is what Joe thinks about the idea of writing his memoir:“… it is one thing to examine your life and quite another to write it. Writing your life implies that you think it worth writing. It implies an arrogance, or confidence, or compulsion to justify oneself, that I can’t claim. Did Washington write his memoirs? Did Lincoln, Jefferson, Shakespeare, Socrates? No, but Nixon will, and Agnew is undoubtedly hunched over his right now.” All I have done is to set the stage. Much of the story is told in flashback to 1954 when Joe and Ruth take a trip to Denmark. They go there for an extended stay in an attempt to escape the heartbreak of the recent death of their son and to give Joe a chance to rest and recuperate from an illness. Why Denmark? Well, that is because his mother immigrated to America from there when she was only sixteen. Joe never knew his father. And because his only child and his mother have both died, he says that he has neither descendant nor ancestor.He and his wife have come to Denmark with the idea that they might locate the house in which his mother had lived. They do; and the plot thickens. Joe is a complicated character with a complex past, but in Denmark he meets his match, a countess whose character and past are even more complex.With the publication of this book, Stegner was at the peak of his popularity. The Spectator Bird won a National Book Award and his previous novel, Angle of Repose, won a Pulitzer.Finally, Joe was right about Nixon and Agnew. Nixon did write his memoir, more than one, in fact, and so did Agnew. Of course, their memoirs were written after both had to resign in disgrace from their respective offices. Agnew even wrote a novel, The Canfield Affair. I have never read it, but the blurb here on Goodreads says: “This book is about a Vice President who was destroyed by his own ambition." I know it isn’t autobiographical because Agnew was destroyed by his greed.Joe would have had something to say about that.
The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner The Spectator Bird is a short novel by Wallace Stegner that won the National Book Award in A profound novel with a much simpler story than Angle of Repose There are only four characters of any importance in The Spectator Bird and one could make a case that only three are essential. The Spectator Bird Stegner Wallace Stegner s is one of the most beguiling voices of the era, and The Spectator Bird is one of his most appealing works Jane Smiley, from the introduction A fabulously written account of regret, memory and the subtleties and challenges of a long successful marriage. The Spectator Bird May , The Spectator Bird is a novel by Wallace Stegner It won the National Book Award for Fiction in , one of the two most prestigious literary awards in the United States The book tells the story of retired literary agent Joe Allston, who receives a postcard from an old friend, a Danish countess named Astrid. The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner About The Spectator Bird This tour de force of American literature and a winner of the National Book Award is a profound, intimate, affecting novel from one of the most esteemed literary minds of the last century and a beloved chronicler of the West. The Spectator Bird Penguin Classics Kindle edition by Nov , The Spectator Bird is a story of people on the cusp of old age, questioning the value of life s work, remembering adventures and opportunities that ended up being near misses Bittersweet and beautifully written One person found this helpful The Spectator Bird Summary eNotes The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner is about Joe Allston He is years old, difficult to deal with, and a former literary agent who has no goals in life He considers himself a spectator in THE SPECTATOR BIRD Kirkus Reviews May , THE SPECTATOR BIRD by Wallace Stegner RELEASE DATE May , Stegner picks up some years later with Joe and Ruth Allson of All the Little Live Things and paraphrases some of the themes of that book as well as the later Angle of Repose. The Spectator Bird Analysis eNotes Wallace Stegner s The Spectator Bird is a reprise of the characters of Stegner s All the Little Live Things The protagonists include Joe and Ruth Allston Joe is a dissatisfied and The Spectator Bird free PDF, FB, FB, TXT Dec , The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner in FB, FB, TXT download e book Welcome to our site, dear reader All content included on our site, such as text, images, digital downloads and other, is the property of it s content suppliers and protected by US and international copyright laws. The Spectator Bird Quotes by Wallace Stegner It reminds me too much of how little life changes how, without dramatic events or high resolves, without tragedy, without even pathos, a reasonably endowed, reasonable well intentioned man can walk through the world s great kitchen from end to end and arrive at the back door hungry Wallace Stegner, The Spectator Bird likes

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  • Wallace Stegner Post author

    Wallace Earle Stegner was an American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist Some call him The Dean of Western Writers He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 and the U.S National Book Award in 1977.

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  • Ever notice how, on rare occasions, certain writers really stand out for their ability to capture the subtle and complex ways of folks It s usually a reason to celebrate since these insights are there for us to imbibe But it may be a source of distress if what s revealed is a difficult truth For me, Wallace Stegner is that sort of author, and this book is one I celebra hate Actually, hate is too strong a word, even when it s combined with a good thing I should say I felt twinges of disappointmen [...]

  • Sometime in the mid 80 s, I read Wallace Stegner s All the Little Live Things, which was published in 1967 and set in that decade Despite being an admirer of his work, I wasn t impressed I found his main character, Joe Alston, a retired literary agent pushing sixty and living with his wife in the hills near Palo Alto, California, to be tiresome How would I describe Joe How about crabby, curmudgeonly, crotchety, bitter, brooding, acerbic, opinionated, argumentative Yes, any one of those will do, [...]

  • In the earlier novel, All the Little Live Things , Joe Allston had retired from being a literary agent and settled down with his wife Ruth in a country home in California.The story of The Spectator Bird Wallace Stegner takes place when Joe is 69 years old, and to his dismay much has changed around him He is working on various notes when he finds an old postcard which prompts him to locate a diary from years before when he and Ruth had visited Denmark Ruth insists that Joe read out aloud so that [...]

  • Sartre wrote We are our choices At a time of the year when many people of varying ages take stock, Stegner s story of ageing Joe Allston was especially poignant Whatever your age, we ve all had those pivotal moments in life when we chose one fork in the road over the other, and go on to either live with regret, or relief Even those who feel they ve lived uneventful lives have, at some point, actively made decisions that altered everything forever.I sometimes get the feeling my whole life happene [...]

  • Perhaps than most of Wallace Stegner s novels, this one might be read differently by readers of different ages Stegner wrote it when he was himself sixty seven, and his protagonist, Joe Alston, is sixty nine This first person narrator is judged by his wife Ruth to have become irritable and depressed, and she is probably correct Joe s interior monologues are delightfully curmudgeonly He is a retired literary editor, and his thoughts and speech are filled with literary allusions Joe is worried ab [...]

  • I have had a bunch of Wallace Stegner s works in my library for a few years but never got around to choosing one So, about a week ago I walked over to the library and this book sort of jumped out at me And so at age 63, an age I think is appropriate for reading this book, I settled in for what was a very worthwhile and thought provoking week of reading The man writes beautifully and this book touches on things that I think cannot be appreciated until one hits these Golden Years of life We have a [...]

  • Another deeply satisfying book by Wallace Stegner, with themes reminiscent of Crossing to Safety and Angle of Repose mortality, the labyrinth of marriage, the mind game that is aging and physical disability, the search for self I wonder if to be known to one s self, to make transparent to ourselves the good and bad that is resident in each of us, is the safe place Stegner alludes to so often Perhaps the safe place is not a physical pilgrimage after all not returning to our origins, not Bregninge [...]

  • I had wanted to read another novel by Wallace Stegner since Crossing to Safety The Spectator Bird lived up to expectations and not because it won the US National Book Award for Fiction in 1977 Even though it was written almost forty years ago, the relevance of the issues it dealt with shone through the pages with contemplative resonance.Set mostly in Denmark, The Spectator Bird centered on Joe Allston, a 69 year old retired literary agent, his wife Ruth , and their summer friendship with a Danis [...]

  • They say that as we approach old age, some look back with satisfaction and contentment about the life path they followed, and some reflect with regret and guilt, and, in hindsight, wish they had followed other paths to supposedly greener pastures Approaching 70, our narrator is squarely in the latter category Despite his and his wife s relatively good health, an accomplished career as a literary agent, and a suburban villa an hour from San Francisco, he is filled with guilt for driving away his [...]

  • THE SPECTATOR BIRD 1976 Wallace StegnerThis is a marvelous un put downable novel from Stegner that was fully deserving of the prize for Best Fiction from the 1977 National Book Award It is the story of a trip taken by a married couple to Denmark, told through the rereading of a series of journals kept by the husband during the trip twenty years earlier The reader is not quite sure what the theme of the book is all about until very near the end Suddenly we are brought up to speed very quickly and [...]

  • Most things break, including hearts The lessons of life amount not to wisdom, but to scar tissue and callus I m not going to waffle on about this one cue cheers at the back because I m rather ill at the moment and not in any kind of mood to write an exhaustive and probably exhausting review However, what I will say is that Wallace Stegner is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors and I can say that with confidence after reading just two of his books Crossing to Safety was one of my favouri [...]

  • Opening On a February morning, when a weather front is moving in off the Pacific but has not quite arrived, and the winds are changeable and gusty and clouds drive over and an occasional flurry of fine rain darkens the terrace bricks, this place conforms to none of the clich s about California with which they advertise the Sunshine Cities for the Sunset Years.Page 6 So far as I can see, it is bad enough sitting around watching yourself wear out, without putting your only mortal part prematurely [...]

  • The Spectator Bird is a beautifully written novel What I loved most was Stegner s thoughtful, profound portrayal of a mature, complicated, loving relationship between a married couple To steal from The Troggs, Wallace Stegner, you make my heart sing

  • Added 9 7 13.I listened to this book via audible Such great writing Very rich with allusions and metaphors Wallace Stegner is remarkable This was a heartrending story Stegner poignantly describes the agony of being torn between two loves There is also a detailed back story with ominous overtones, but the romantic scenes are always pure.The audio book was read by Edward Herrmann who definitely added to my enjoyment of the story.One GR reviewer wrote that the main character s interior monologues a [...]

  • A beautiful novel by a master of the form As we get older and settled, we find the past calling for its reckoning, and in this novel Stegner takes his protagonist on a reckoning from present day 1970 s Northern California to post war Denmark through the journals he kept stashed away among his relics Stegner is a writer s writer who paints the most evocative and striking scenes with his finely honed descriptive eye, while also maintaining characters of sharp wit and intelligence who have a capac [...]

  • Another beautifully crafted novel by Stegner about marriage, self discovery, andcs Stegner artfully intertwines two plot lines, one that follows an aging, retired literary agent who is approaching his death with a healthy mix of fear, anger, and self deprecating humor As readers watch him struggle through his daily routines, something out of the ordinary arrives in his mailbox It s a postcard from an old friend, a Danish noblewoman he and his wife lived with for a few months than twenty years b [...]

  • A short, skillful novel and an improvement over The Angle of Repose At first, it seems the story is about aging gracefully with good humor and safety, in spite of the corrosive feeling that in your life, you were a spectator, a valet, to the banquet of life But it takes a turn as the husband reads his diary to his wife about a trip they took to Denmark twenty years before.For a short book it is multi layered with the themes of settling into retirement, being part of an old married couple and at [...]

  • Now that I am in my sixties, I enjoyed this book this time around I first read it several decades ago and it didn t resonate nearly so much Written from the perspective of a 69 year old retired literary agent, who is aging ungracefully, it touches on many of the unwelcome losses that the accumulated years bring Joe feels that he has been a spectator to his own life Then he starts to read his diary aloud to his wife, about a trip they took to Denmark twenty years before During that period, a com [...]

  • I didn t realize until the end that this is a prequel to All the Little Live Things, a favorite of mine Joe Allston is agreeably irascible, a foil to his wife Ruth and the unfortunate and intriguing woman of secrets, Astrid Psychologically and philosophically true.

  • Not a word is out of place in this comparatively short novel by Stegner And that is eminently suitable for a novel that revolves around the retelling of a memoir diary notes were taken at the time and life memories from one particular earlier life period of a retired literary agent, the protagonist of the novel So put on your literary thinking caps and stir up your own memories of every lit course you ever took, way back when, because the references and allusions to almost everything you ve ever [...]

  • Another delightful book from Wallace Stegner Even though I have ones I favor than this one Angle of Repose, The Big Rock Candy Mountain, All the Little Live Things Stegner is capturing getting old in a way that I do not believe that anyone else succeeds, with the fear, but also with the intimacy of couples that are married for long long years, with regrets and memories, with friends that are going away passing away, or losing their health, or just far away Joe is funny yet grumpy in All the Li [...]

  • This book bored the hell out of me Which is a shame, b c Stegner is a wonderful writer and a decent storyteller The protagonist of the story is a retired literary agent living out his life in Northern California having retired from New York A postcard from an old friend sends the character looking at old journals and the story takes off from there There is no denying Stegner s skill as a writer He writes clearly and his imagery is evocative His dialogue is clean and clear He writes, from a styli [...]

  • Wallace Stegner is praised for his impact on and affiliation with other great authors Tom Wolfe, Larry McMurtry, Ken Kesey, Edward Abbey, et al but I consider his own fiction to be rather underrated.One of the highlights of my sportswriting career had nothing at all to do with sports I chatted for a few minutes with Wolfe once regarding Stegner s antipathy toward Kesey.I ve read most of Stegner s fiction and quite a bit of his non fiction He is a remarkable craftsman I encourage you to expose y [...]

  • I LOVED this book But, then again, I love Wallace Stegner I listened to it as an audio presentation and the reader, Edward Herrmann, did a fantastic job as an old mand then transitioned into Ruth, his wife, and THEN into the Danish characters It centers around the theme of an old 68 , arthritic man in the 1970 s, and his reminiscence of their time in Denmark in earlier years as he reads his old journals to his insistent wife It is also about an old man as he ages I feel Stegner has, in the 3 nov [...]

  • I am almost certain I will read this again in 20 years time and give it 5 stars It is full of the poignant, often sad, old age musings of a retired New York literary agent as he battles with ageing, perceived irrelevance and questions of identity and legacy With both his parents and his only child dead, what will be the evidence he even existed Has he only been a spectator in life Is he just killing time until time kills him His humour is sarcastic and deliciously dry while travelling he notes a [...]

  • Joe Allston is not living his golden years gracefully Nearly 70, he is consumed with the notion that he s just killing time until time kills him He s obsessed with his physical ailments and thinks he s losing his sharpness and vigor He views his life as mostly one of failure to impact anyone for positive His wife Ruth is impatient with his dour affect She urges him to write as a form of therapy, but he s reluctant to do so as he just doesn t have the spirit that s needed He lost an adult son yea [...]

  • The Spectator Bird tells the story of Joe Allston, a retired literary agent, recalling a past that he bemoans, living in a broken body in a present that he is thoroughly dissatisfied with The novel exemplifies Stegner s tendency to play with conventions of narration In this novel, the story of the present is told through Allston s narration, while the story from the past that covers much of the novel s pages is told through Allston s reading of a diary kept during a vacation to Denmark twenty ye [...]

  • With The Spectator Bird Wallace Stegner returned to Joe Allston, whom we first met in All the Live Little Things He s a retired literary agent, now living with his wife Ruth in California and still depressed about their son s early death in a surfing accident, which Joe thinks might have been suicide.The Penguin paperback edition I read has an introduction by Jane Smiley that is really good It situates Stegner in the context of his literary times, noting his feeling that the Eastern establishmen [...]

  • A dark and surprising book For one thing, I wasn t aware that the indignities of old age were a theme in the fiction of the 1970s The novel alternates between the present, when literary agent Joe and his wife Ruth have retired to California, and the past, when they traveled to Denmark in the aftermath of their only son s death Twenty years ago, after Curtis died, possibly a suicide, Joe and Ruth decided to spend a few months in Denmark, wherefrom Joe s mother had emigrated as a teenager By a rat [...]

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