Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide
"Angle of Repose" by Wallace Stegner
• Wilt Chamberlain first to score 30,000 basketball points
• Title IX: no sex discrimination
• Katharine Graham first female Fortune 500 CEO
• Ms. Magazine launch
Young Stegner learned about the importance of water when drought forced the family to move from the family farm. Stegner says his dissertation advisor who was paralyzed and his itinerant fortune-seeking father inspired “Angle of Repose” characters.
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Featured Reader Wanted!
– Share your key take-away about inclusion in this book in a sentence or two.
– Write a paragraph or two (up to 250 words) to describe your thoughts on exclusion/inclusion in the book, why you related or did not connect with the book, and why you think reading, inclusion and dialog about inclusion matter.
– Identify the name and website address of a cause you support with an inclusive mission.
Historian with disability writes grandmother’s artsy wilderness heartbreak life story
Artist/writer wife tells mining engineer husband to invent hydraulic cement, so he does
Grandmother Susan Ward inspired by 19th century writer/illustrator Mary Hallock. Novel introduced with disclaimer: “utilizes selected facts from their real lives. It is in no sense a family history.”
One granddaughter encouraged Stegner to used Foote’s papers as he wished; other descendants accused Stegner of “stealing Mary’s material and not giving Mary credit.”
Long, messy life story, long book: 672 pages or 22 listening hours
Silence speaks. People are feeling and reacting even when they are not verbal.
Revealing insights about storyteller who is a man with a disability, including self-image and perception by others. Grandmother is a commercial art success who basks in the company of like-minded intellectuals. She either actively avoids or is slow to warm up to the less educated including the “servant class,” people from “Chinese” and “Cornish” camps. Grandfather is brilliant engineer but bad businessman because he trusts people. WTF description of a baby doll.
Decide whether or not to have a belt of bourbon or to throw back some aspirins without water before you prep. First-night at the first mining camp opener is bread and butter, tea, and bar of chocolate. Enjoy your last Mexican feast. Celebrate fleeting success with champagne and oysters.
“What really interests me is how two such unlike particles clung together, and under what strains, rolling downhill into their future until they reached the angle of repose where I knew them.”
Handicapped accessible office; hang a broad leather belt, Civil war wooden-handled cavalry revolver, bowie knife and a pair of iron Mexican spurs. Display some illustrations that you imagine Susan could have created and weigh them down with cement so they don’t blow away.
How do characters address and prioritize Lyman’s safety, independence, dignity, preferences and fulfillment?
Lyman wonders if he’s viewed as an object to be dealt with or as a grotesque. How should a person with a disability be treated?
How does this novel portray “intellectuals,” particularly, the way they interact with each other and people they don’t view as sophisticated? What is intelligence? Competence? Education?
Is there an Augusta in your life?
Why focus on propriety in the wilderness?
How do newcomers and visitors feel in the novel? What does it take to make someone feel welcome?
Why do people live vicariously or live in the past? How can you connect to those people?
Why are people in physically dangerous situations in this novel? What still needs to be done to protect children and compensate people in dangerous professions, like mineworkers?
Compare access to water in the novel to issues with clean water in Michigan and Atlanta.
Lyman says, “The one trouble is, this commune will be inhabited by and surrounded by members of the human race.” How and why do people stand in the way of progressive thinking and progress?
What is the angle of repose? What was inevitable about the relationships in the novel? Where have things come to rest from an inclusion perspective in this country?
Discuss the Doppler Effect -- sound coming at you at higher pitch than same thing going away – in the context of bigotry and inclusion.
Start in a civilized, cultured place that feels like Milton then head to the wilderness, ideally somewhere mountainous. Pay for your own travel. Learn about irrigation techniques used near your home. Visit a fracking site, a solar energy farm, electric car factory, or a mine depending on the kind of industry you think Oliver would choose to pursue today.
1997 TV movie “Wallace Stegner: A Writer’s Life” 2009 “Wallace Stegner” biographical film.
Lyman apt to think binging “Deadwood” or “Calamity Jane” irrelevant to story of grandmother’s marriage.
“Big Rock Candy Mountain” 1943 and “All the Little Live Things” 1967. “American Places” is an essay collection about wilderness areas that Stegner and his son Page wrote in 1981.