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From the “dean of Western writers” (The New York Times) and the Pulitzer Prize winning–author of Angle of Repose and Crossing to Safety, his National Book Award–winning novel
A Penguin Classic
Joe Allston is a retired literary agent who is, in his own words, "just killing time until time gets around to killing me." His parents and his only son are long dead, leaving him with neither ancestors nor descendants, tradition nor ties. His job, trafficking the talent of others, had not been his choice. He passes through life as a spectator.
A postcard from a friend causes Allston to return to the journals of a trip he had taken years before, a journey to his mother's birthplace where he'd sought a link with the past. The memories of that trip, both grotesque and poignant, move through layers of time and meaning, and reveal that Joe Allston isn't quite spectator enough.
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Wallace Stegner (1909–1993) published more than two dozen books throughout his life, including the novels Angle of Repose, which won the Pulitzer Prize; Crossing to Safety; and The Big Rock Candy Mountain. An early environmentalist, Stegner was instrumental—with his now famous “Wilderness Letter”—in the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act.
Jane Smiley is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of more than ten novels and four works of nonfiction. She lives in California.
Wallace Stegner isn't much read any more, and that's a great shame. Books like THE SPECTATOR BIRD, especially in this fine reading by Edward Herrmann, offer the reward of ideas that will resonate for a long time and characters whose sometimes-epic sorrows resolve on a human scale. Herrmann's vocal characterizations are subtle but distinct--from the "Bryn Mawr" accent of the narrator's wife to the accents of the Danish women (including Karen Blixen, better known as Isak Dinesen) whom the narrator meets on a recuperative vacation. As Joseph Alston, a dutiful man whose passions are not easily engaged, Herrmann moves from resignation to frustration to love and self-knowledge. Herrmann gives a mature and complex performance of a mature and complex novel. D.M.H. © AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine
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