Stunning. A quiet book that reminds you that you’re sh1t. You couldn’t form a thought or a sentence that would be good enough to be page-filler here. Wallace Stegner is Ty Cobb, and almost all the other writers you’re reading now are Little Leaguers…How???
The story is about the friendship struck by two young couples while the husbands taught as Assistant Professors of Literature at the University of Wisconsin. While he has you wrapped in his web, Stegner asks “How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these? Where are the things that novelists seize upon and readers expect?” Where are the sex, drugs and rock ’n roll needed to keep people’s attention? Does he ask that question in the secure confidence of his genius, or as an archetypal writer wondering if his cogitations will find an audience. Only he knows.
There are several simple set-ups in this modest story that will have readers arguing over the obvious questions. But those arguments can will be rich, and the writing is rich and the experience, for a serious reader is a clear must have. You’ll likely never see the Vermont detailed in Crossing to Safety, even if you live in Vermont. You’ll likely never meet a full-blast Charity Lang, but one wishes we all could. You probably will never possess the wisdom to look back on the beginning of your family, career and friendships as is done here, but take some time to do it. Without that, the wisdom you lay on the nieces, nephews, sons and daughters of the next generation is hooey.
“There is nothing like a doorbell to precipitate the potential into the kinetic. When you stand outside a door and push the button, something has to happen. Someone must respond; whatever is inside must be revealed. Questions will be answered…” Reading this book is a doorbell. Push it.