Angle of Repose
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An American masterpiece and iconic novel of the West by National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stegner—a deeply moving narrative of one family and the traditions of our national past.
Lyman Ward is a retired professor of history, recently confined to a wheelchair by a crippling bone disease and dependant on others for his every need. Amid the chaos of 1970s counterculture he retreats to his ancestral home of Grass Valley, California, to write the biography of his grandmother: an elegant and headstrong artist and pioneer who, together with her engineer husband, made her own journey through the hardscrabble West nearly a hundred years before. In discovering her story he excavates his own, probing the shadows of his experience and the America that has come of age around him.
sagging narrowness of the cot jammed them together. “Will thee take it?” she asked. “That depends on you.” “Thee’d be happier.” “Maybe. I hate all this lawing and claim jumping and swearing to false affidavits and all this playing expert in a game where both sides are crooked. It’d be nice to do a job that just expanded knowledge.” “Thee could, I know thee could.” She lay still, then she said, “That’s almost the first thing thee ever said to me.” “What are you talking about?” “I was drawing
eye, and they were sometimes at war. Patient Indian women with their babies slung in rebozos, men bowed under their burdens, looked to her like people waiting for their souls. A cathedral rising out of a huddle of huts, a ranch whose stone water-works seemed to her to rival those of Seville, made her ashamed of the delight she took in a picturesqueness created out of so much driven human labor. She saw a bullfight in Maravatio and was sickened by it, but got her sketches just the same. At two
talk about. I am settled as happy as a worm in an apple at the Casa Walkenhorst, the home of Morelia’s Prussian banker. With my norteamericana habits I am probably almost as disconcerting as a worm, or half a worm as Bessie would say, giggling–to Emelita, the sister-in-law who keeps Don Gustavo’s house. But she is such a sweet and gentle nature, and such a model of consideration, that she would never let me know, no matter how much I disrupted her household. I could go around on stilts, and
of the Cornish miners, who visited the house and sang carols, those “rude uncultivated people” singing parts as if they had been born the children of choir masters. She put in every rag of local color she could think of about New Almaden, but she still mistrusted what she had done, and she still was afraid that Thomas would take it out of friendship and not for its own merits. I have no evidence, but I think Grandmother must have been set up to be asked to write that piece. She would have loved
outright what sort of life it was, what sort of promise the New World gave, when a miner who emerged from a deep hole in Cornwall could do no better than dive down another in California, and when his children were carrying water to the mine at ten and pushing an ore car at fifteen. The rock-walled chimney slid downward, she floated toward the surface with her head tilted back, impatient for the upper world. She felt the air grow cooler on her skin, the walls grew yellow-gray with daylight, they