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Sunday, April 3, 2011

"The Spectator Bird", beware of "high literature"

The Spectator Bird- Wallace Stegner

I was eager to read more from Wallace Stegner after enjoying quite a lot "Crossing to Safety". In that book, although the "scent" was that of what is called "high literature" (something that one seeks to avoid at all costs) existed, the characters were really human, credible, and their evolution through life was compelling, making you feel part of an intimate history. But sadly, its not the case of "The Spectator Bird".

Again a book about memories, this time from a retired literary agent Joe Allston, who, after receiving a postcard from an old friend, goes back to his diary, where the story of his trip (together with his wife Ruth) through Denmark is narrated. A journey that was really special.

Stegner builds the novel mixing in a succession of flashbacks, where the Danish affair is slowly explained, and Joe's struggles with the fears and turmoil of becoming an older age...but the book never delivers, at least for me. I simply found myself bored with Allston's unavoidable speeches (too many during the book), and the aristocratic world of Astrid. That part of the plot looks like a bad movie to me (there's an ugly secret going on in that family...just wait a bit more until we reveal it... well sorry, it was obvious there was something going on) and the unresolved feelings issue... well, pretty pointless.

The most interesting part of the book is the meditation on marriage and the struggles of age. Allston, with his curmudgeon attitude, could have been a very attractive character pointing out what fails in a system that seems to "exclude" ageing people. But sadly again, Stegner goes into the pedantic territory of "high literature", and ruins it. Huge disappointment.

SCORE: 2,75/10

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