This weekend finds me wallowing in a truly excellent book: Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose. I've not read Stegner before, and I chose this book because of The Pulitzer Project (it won the prize for fiction in 1972). I have to admit when I checked this book out of my local library, I blanched at its 550+ pages. Having recently read an equally hefty prizewinner, Wolf Hall (read my review), I wasn't sure if I was up for another chunkster. But I was hooked before I'd read 20 pages! The narrator is Lyman Ward, an historian confined to a wheelchair who decides to write his family history, beginning when his grandparents settled in frontier California in 1868. His grandfather, Oliver Ward, was a mining engineer; his grandmother Susan, an artist and writer from the East Coast. The family history is primarily a story of their marriage and the events that held them together. The prose is beautiful, whether Stegner is describing the rich California scenery, or portraying Lyman's emotions and infirmities.
Wikipedia defines angle of repose as "the maximum angle of a stable slope determined by friction, cohesion and the shapes of the particles." Um, that's not helpful (and physics never was my thing). However, Wikipedia's article about this book says, "the title is an engineering term for the angle at which soil finally settles after, for example, being dumped from a mine as tailings." That's a little better. Oliver Ward worked in mines across the American West, and given the nomadic lifestyle required of his profession, I can see how the angle of repose would be an apt metaphor for this novel.
It will take me a few more days to finish Angle of Repose, but I'm also thinking about what's next. I have one timed reading challenge left in 2009, the (Another) 1% Well-Read Challenge, so I think I'll wrap that up with A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka. Following that I have a couple books from my stacks that I'd like to read. But that's a subject for another time. I'll be back next Sunday with thoughts on Tractors and anything else that comes to mind.
Where is your reading taking you this weekend?
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