Reading Wallace Stegner is like having a really great first boyfriend He ruins you for anyone who comes later Sometimes he s so good that you don t even want anyone after him The Big Rock Candy Moun
Reading Wallace Stegner is like having a really great first boyfriend. He ruins you for anyone who comes later. Sometimes he's so good that you don't even want anyone after him.The Big Rock Candy Mountain is the book that should have won Stegner the Pulitzer Prize long before he wrote Angle of Repose. I've read commentary indicating that Big Rock Candy Mountain is largely autobiographical. If that is true, my heart aches for the little boy that was Wallace Stegner. Perhaps those early painful experiences were what made him the soulful and understanding author we love.Stegner is the conductor for the music of my heart. Maybe someday I'll figure out how to write reviews that adequately convey what he does for me. A viral The Big Rock Candy Mountain Author Wallace Stegner Viral Book Bo Mason, his wife, Elsa, and their two boys live a transient life of poverty and despair Drifting from town to town and from state to state, the violent, ruthless Bo seeks out his fortune in the hotel business, in new farmland, and, eventually, in illegal rum running through the treacherous back roads of the American Northwest Stegner portrays than thirty years inBo Mason, his wife, Elsa, and their two boys live a transient life of poverty and despair Drifting from town to town and from state to state, the violent, ruthless Bo seeks out his fortune in the hotel business, in new farmland, and, eventually, in illegal rum running through the treacherous back roads of the American Northwest Stegner portrays than thirty years in the life of the Mason family in this masterful, harrowing saga of people trying to survive during the lean years of the early twentieth century.. Wallace Earle Stegner was an American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist Some call him The Dean of Western Writers He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 and the U.S National Book Award in 1977.. A viral Ebook The Big Rock Candy Mountain Towards the end of this epic story, Bruce Mason, who was a first year law student barely 20 years old (having skipped a few grades), began keeping a journal. It was not a log of his activities or thoughts on the issues of the day, but rather an attempt to understand a complicated family dynamic with a flawed father driving it. He said the journal was like author’s notes -- another of the many parallels between Bruce and Stegner himself. Both had a saintly mother, a combustible father, an athletic older brother who unlike Wally and Bruce did not skip grades, and a nomadic upbringing that included time in Saskatchewan, Montana, and Salt Lake City. Here’s Bruce, though, reflecting on how impossible it is to truly understand any such thing:"I suppose," he wrote, "that the understanding of any person is an exercise in genealogy. A man is not a static organism to be taken apart and analyzed and classified. A man is movement, motion, a continuum. There is no beginning to him. He runs through his ancestors, and the only beginning is the primal beginning of the single cell in the slime."Nevertheless, the book did track back to figure out what it could. In the process, Stegner said, he managed to offload some deep-seeded resentments. I’m reluctant to go into any detail, because Stegner should be given the chance to reveal important plot points his own way. Let me just say he’s good at it. Each vignette draws you in completely, magnified and made grand by his sense of time and place. And every character profile has human dimensions that only a genuinely talented, observant writer can convey. OK then. [Taking a deep breath before attempting the tightrope walk that keeps me from over-sharing while at the same time justifies why the book deserves all 5 stars.] One genealogical precursor in this story was the father’s father who lost an arm and any sense of humor he might have had as a prisoner in the Civil War. Another was the mother’s Norwegian heritage and farm upbringing that made her hearty and resilient. Each member of the immediate family gets POV treatment which helps the long story move at a more spritely pace. Bo, the dad, was testosterone personified. He was broad-shouldered, good with his hands, quick with his temper, energetic, charming (at times), respected by ruffians, good with guns, and for the most part loving towards his wife Elsa. He chased dreams of the big score, the easy money, or in metaphorical terms, the Big Rock Candy Mountain that’s surely just past the next rise. (BTW, the book shares its apt title with a song that was featured in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou. “And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth” being my favorite line.) Bo pushed boundaries, was confident (or maybe “delusional” is the better word), and liked signaling “big man” status when he could. In one case he paid more for the diamond stud in his tie than I do for 3 years-worth of clothes and accessories even before adjusting for inflation. (Hmm… I’m not sure if that says more about him or me.)Elsa was more practical, but rarely held sway. She was also, in contrast, consistently kind. The only knock against her is that she might have done more to protect the little birds in her nest. The older brother, Chet, was in many ways like his father. If Bo could be called a man’s man, Chet could be labelled a boy’s boy – physical, a ring-leader, adventurous, and at least half-full of mischief. Bruce was more of a mama’s boy. He did share one trait with his father, though: an intense willfulness. When the two were together, Bo’s manly standards and own intransigence made harmony as scarce as big money. Bruce’s reflections later in the book were powerful and wise (overlapping 99% with Stegner’s own). Father-son relationships often teeter lopsidedly between pride and disappointment depending on how the two generations reflect on each other and how reconciled they are to their differences.Stegner once said this was a book about motion. The family certainly moved a lot, with that B.R.C.M. always beckoning. There was movement of a different sort, too. Young Bruce, who was wise beyond his years, noted that people weren’t fixed points so much as lines, always changing a little from what they were “like the wiggly line on a machine used to measure earthquake shocks. […a man] moved along a line dictated by his heritage and his environment, but he was subject to every sort of variation within the narrow limits of his capabilities.” With Stegner drawing the plots, every wiggle was worth noting.The book was published in 1943 when Stegner was 34 years old, teaching at Harvard. The three other Stegner novels I read were written decades later. It was interesting to me to sample the young Wallace Stegner before the line of his life brought him to celebrated works like Angle of Repose and Crossing to Safety. In younger years he seemed to write with more raw power, hurt, and emotion. As he aged he became more refined and maybe more quotable. He was never less than great, though – marked by mature insights even as a young man and brimming with intelligence throughout. I’m giving this book 4.5 stars and rounding up to 5. The small demerit comes from descriptive passages that I sometimes felt could have been shorter. I also think that as Bruce/Wallace exorcised demons, there wasn’t enough elapsed time or self-awareness yet to say what would fill the void. A quote by Bruce near the end, though, hints at how both the protagonist and the writer thought the blanks should be filled.Perhaps it took several generations to make a man, perhaps it took several combinations and re-creations of his mother's gentleness and resilience, his father's enormous energy and appetite for the new, a subtle blending of masculine and feminine, selfish and selfless, stubborn and yielding, before a proper man could be fashioned.Knowing what I know of the writer to come, he iterated his way to that goal quite well, surpassing those candy mountains along the way.
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