Finding Balance: Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose—SOLD OUT

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Angle of ReposeWhen we are faced with the need to make changes in our lives, either by chance or by choice, where and how do we find equilibrium amid the flux? Can we achieve a new place of rest, or do we always remain poised in precarious balance among irreconcilable forces?

In his beautiful novel Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner explores the challenge—and the art—of making changes, through the dual stories of Lyman Ward and his grandmother Susan Burling Ward. At 58 years old, forced to use a wheelchair because of a debilitating bone disease, and dependent on others for his most basic needs, retired historian Lyman looks back to the lives of his grandparents in an attempt to make sense of the profound changes he is experiencing in his marriage and family, his own identity, and the culture of the late 1960s. A century earlier, his grandmother Susan, a talented writer and artist, had left an East Coast life of refinement and gentility to follow her mining-engineer husband Oliver Ward as he set out to make a name for himself in the newly opened American West.

Through Susan’s letters, drawings, and published writings, Lyman pieces together the story of his grandparents’ life and marriage. It is a tension of opposites and of differing expectations. Yet by the time Lyman knows his grandparents late in their lives, they seem to have found some point of “repose,” a place where the tensions have eased, or at least balanced themselves out. Stegner’s novel offers us a profound meditation on the many ways that time, place, and human interaction impose themselves and shape our characters, identities, dreams, and desires.

Read more in my blog post The Mythic and Intimate in the American West.

“I believe in Time, as they did, and in the life chronological rather than in the life existential”

– Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose


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Mark Cwik is a longtime seminar leader at Classical Pursuits and an instructor with CP’s online partner Great Discourses.

Participants are required to obtain the specified editions in order to facilitate the group’s ability to find and cite portions of the text during discussion.

Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner
(Vintage, 2014)
ISBN-13: 978-1-101-87276-5

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