Monday, June 30, 2003

Another influence Natalie Goldberg had on me through Thunder and Lightning was her high recommendation of books by Wallace Stegner and Carson McCullers. (Actually, it might have been Barbara Kingsolver who recommended McCullers--I'm not sure.) So I checked out the collected stories of Carson McCullers, and while I prefer my short stories wry and snarky rather than depressing or disillusioned, they were, for the most part, worth the read. Then I picked up Stegner's Crossing to Safety.

Goldberg says that this was one of those books that she picked up every time she went into a bookstore, and put back down again after reading the sappy summary on the back cover. I would have done the same without her recommendation. Even as I began it I had some trepidation, with the unfounded notion that Stegner was some sort of Western writer; fortunately, I couldn't have been more wrong. Crossing to Safety is a beautiful story that I will not try to describe since a plot summary never captures the truth of the book. In the case of this book that is even more accurate, so I will just say that I could hardly put it down. I was sucked in by the complexity and feeling of the characters, the rich wash of the prose, and the compelling development of the story. Even that description sounds contrived and uninteresting, but I assure you that the book is anything but. Wallace Stegner will definitely remain on my list of books to seek out.

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