Monday, October 28, 2013

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

"Crossing to Safety" first published in  1987 was a "must read" recommendation of Mary Anne Schwalbe in "The End of Your Life Bookclub" written by her son Will. They  read many books that I have read and enjoyed but this was one totally unfamiliar to me.  Based on that, I purchased a new edition of the Modern Library reprint in 2002, with  an afterword by T H Watkins.  I needn't have done so, the book is well written but I had to force myself to continue reading this 327 page paperback novel about two couples in  academia who develop a life long friendship during the Great Depression beginning their careers in Madison, WI.  I was bored throughout with much of the intellectual discourse.  Obviously  the discourses among couples is fiction, people really do not speak in such high brow  ways, do they?.   Perhaps those who have similar career paths as professors and  struggle to gain tenure might enjoy  it and relate to it; one couple is very wealthy despite striving for tenure while  the other is opposite, poor as church mice.

 The introduction by Terry Tempest Williams claims, "It is a love story not in  the sense of titillating dialogue and actions but in the sense that it explores private lives.  No outsider ever knows the interior landscape of a marriage.  It is one of the great secrets kept between couples."

 At times the idyllic carefree lifestyle  reminded me of the movie  "On Golden Pond" as the couples summer at a cottage on Bartell Lake.  Here is one example of the descriptive narrative, page 12,  The second paragraph< beginning  "Leave a mark on the world..."
 
Page 191, is a rather  lyrical way of saying, watch out for life, because stuff happens.   "Order is indeed the dream of man, but chaos, which is only another word for dumb, blind witless chance is still the law of nature.  You can plan all you want to.  You can lie in your morning bed and fill whole notebooks with schemes and intentions.  But within a single afternoon, within hours or minutes, everything you plan and  everything you have fought  to make yourself can be undone  as a slug is undone when salt is poured on him.  And right up to the moment when you find yourself dissolving into foam you can still believe you are doing fine."

So life does not always go as planned, something  those of us who have  survived well know.  I will be passing this book along.   Because of the good  writing I give it a 3 ***, but I cannot identify anyone to pass this to.  So to the book sale donation stack, it goes.