Thursday, October 28, 2021

Wallace Stegner

The nicest part of yesterday was running into Merrill at the grocery store. She, Issa and Leo came by in the afternoon for a visit, and they’re coming for dinner tonight. Progress has really happened in spades on their house, and I’m thrilled because it means they’ll be back to move in at the end of January.

The worst part of yesterday was discovering that the recent storm caused two enormous branches to fall onto my garden, a garden far out of view of the house, destroying several plants. Each one is far too big and heavy to move. I’ll have to saw them into pieces to get them out of the yard.

I keep thinking about what Phil said on our big Sunday dog walk two weeks ago.

“They’ll never go away,” he said.

It’s been well over five years that I’ve had my symptoms. They’ve changed over time, but they’ve never left since they came on. But each time there’s a long gap between seizures, I believe that I’m ‘cured.’ That makes me think that I’ve not yet completely accepted my symptoms; hearing what Phil said may have helped.

The book I will finish today, by Wallace Stegner, contains a paragraph wherein a grand dame of the American West is talking to her daughter about her daughter’s suitor. Instead of itemizing his strengths, she lists things that aren’t ‘wrong’ about him: He doesn’t drink to excess, he’s not rude, he’s not unattractive, she says, and continues like this through a long list that includes, “not a stammerer.”

It surprises me to say that it hurt, somehow, to read that—especially coming from a writer who, for me, is one of the greatest writers I’ve read. There’s such majesty in his writing, yet in in no way seems forced or pretentious. It doesn’t feel like an author trying to win awards.

Crossing to Safety is a completely unremarkable novel, by subject. It’s the story of a friendship of four people, people living unremarkable lives—lives not unalike gazillions of other normal (white Western) lives. But Mr. Stegner’s skills with character take us deeply into his world, his story. His vocabulary is stupefying. But it doesn’t ring untrue; everything about his writing so impresses me, makes his use of rare and impressive words periodically are, like flowers, enhancing the landscape.

Then, three-quarters of the way through the novel, he includes a character who stutters. Imagine!

I can continue to love him. Now, on to Louise Penny. I have five new stories/mysteries to read. And I’ve ordered another Wallace Stegner book.

This afternoon I’m looking forward to cooking up a fish curry, rich with Mahi Maki, Cod and Scallops, and served on rice made a way I learned in Varanasi, India, in what seems like forever ago. I’m really looking forward to cooking and sharing it tonight with Merrill, Leo and Issa.

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