Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Angle of Repose

Wallace Stegner's Pultizer Prize-winning novel is a story of discovery—personal, historical, and geographical. Confined to a wheelchair, retired historian Lyman Ward sets out to write his grandparents' remarkable story, chronicling their days spent carving civilization into the surface of America's western frontier.

I decided to skip the book that the book club is reading this month.  I hate that I can only manage to read one book that is fiction each month....but it is a fact.  I had already started Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose, and I decided to stay with it.  Much like Crossing to safety, the book is not a huge page turner.  It is slow and purposeful.  I have had the actual print book on my shelf for many years.  It has seemed to me a book that I SHOULD read:  Pulitzer Prize Winner....book about a Quaker woman ....book about a man who is writing his grandparents family history after his retirement....well I HAVE to read it don't I?

I am actually listening to it via audible.  And today is the first time that the light bulb went off:  Oh, yes....I "get it"....Susan Burling Ward has just taken the train across the continent to join her new husband in California.  How many thousands of times did a young Quaker girl move west on our continent and think about all that she left behind and the fact that she might never see her parents again?  WOW!  The thought is huge.

This morning on the way to get coffee Iistened to a part where Susan and Oliver are visiting San Francisco for their Thanksgiving holiday.  It reminded me of the fact that San Franciso was quite gay in that time period.  Unlike the rest of the state that was still fairly raw.  My grandmother Hawkins was very proud of her Uncle John Partridge:

Granny Mary was proud of her relationship with John S. Partridge of San Francisco, California who was recently [letter written July 26, 1923] appointed Federal Judge in this state...

Granny Mary  said:  "Uncle John was rich and lived in a four story mansion in San Francisco and all of his children lived in the same house.  They were Marie (a singer), Bee Wellmans and Carl and Harry."

I added birth and death dates and the middle name Slater while perusing information on Ancestry in June 2004.  Source given for the information was:

Name: Partridge, John Slater
Birth - Death: 1870-1926
Accession Number: 3244759
Source Citation: Biographical Dictionary of the Federal Judiciary. Compiled by Harold
Chase, Samuel Krislov, Keith O. Boyum, and Jerry N. Clark. Detroit:
Gale Research, 1976.(BiDFedJ)
Biographical Directory of the Federal Judiciary, 1789-2000. Lanham,
MD, USA: Bernan, 2001. Biographies begin on page 347.(BiDrFJ)
Who Was Who in America. A component volume of [Who's Who in American
History.]. Volume 1, 1897-1942. Chicago: A.N. Marquis Co.,

1943.(WhAm 1)

But the thing that I remember the most about early San Francisco was the Cliff House.  And Susan mentions having seen the Cliff House in this book.  My NORCAL mail list (back in the days when it was VERY active) talked about the Cliff House for many days!  Jack and I took the trolley out to see the site the last time we were in San Fran.  The structure below no longer exists.  But the ruins of the Sutro baths are visible.  I am not taking the time to figure out what Susan and Oliver actually saw on their trip.  Instead I am remembering what I was thinking when I bought the pictures that are at the bottom of my steps to the basement.

OK....the book just started to engage me totally.  It may still not be a page turner, but the description of the mine town and the structure of the mining business in that town is amazing.  I don't know how Stegner manages to get one to understand so amazingly well all of the things that are going on in the book....including his character, Lyman Ward, .....how his life is so much at the mercy of the people around him and yet he manages to have a real life that he indeed controls with the help of his help.  This is truly a great book!

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