Friday, May 4, 2018

Shadow Divers

Book: Shadow Divers: 
The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II
Basic Information : Synopsis : Characters : Thoughts : Evaluation : Book Group : Good Quotes  : References

Basic Information:
Author: Robert Kurson
Edition: Hardback from the Fresno County Public Library
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 0965925072 (ISBN13: 9780965925075)
Start Date: April 28, 2018
Read Date: May 4, 2018
335 pages
Genre: History, World War II, Scuba Diving
Language Warning: Medium
Rated Overall: 3½ out of 5
History: 4 out of 5

Synopsis (Caution: Spoiler Alert-Jump to Thoughts):
What is a wreck diver? It is a diver who finds, identifies helps to recover some of a ship-wreck.

That is what this story is about, where Bill Nagle, a legend in the sport of wreck-diving, but now out of shape for serious diving, receives the coordinates of a possible wreck from a “friendly” captain. He takes along John Chatterton and eleven other divers. Most of them figure that this will probably be a garbage barge, but you never know. When Chatterton went down, it was not a barge, but cigar shaped-a German sub. But the question was, which one?

A good section of the book deals with Kohler and Chatterton diving hoping to find some identification on the sub. The other part of the chase is talking with experts in the United States, Great Britain and Germany. They spent time in research archives and museums pondering possibilities.

In the meantime, their monomania-drive to dive and to determine the fate and identification of the sub leads to the breakup of both of Chatterton and Kohler’s marriages. Kohler comments on his blog that he was an comfortable with Kurson’s digging into this part of the story, but after seeing the results felt that it was part of the story.

Also, on two different dives three people died. The first because the diver experienced difficulties and sank without recovering. It was after this death that Kohler becomes part of the team. The second was a father/son team. The son tried to dislodge a barrier and became trapped. by the time he escaped, he was out of oxygen and ascended without decompression. The father gave chase and they both died because of nitrogen poisoning, the bends.

As Chatterton and Kohler narrow the focus of which sub has been found, they realize that history may have been written wrong. Eventually the sub changes from being known as U-Who to U-869. This is confirmed when Chatterton goes into an unexplored compartment after performing a dangerous maneuver and finds a tag on a box of spare parts.

After the confirmed identification has been made, neither Chatterton or Kohler go down to the sub again. Chatterton goes on to find other wrecks. Kohler is more interested in the family and friends of the men who were in in U-69. He was able to visit several of them.

Cast of Characters:
  • Bill Nagle-Innovative deep wreck diver. Becomes ship captain of the Seeker which is used to find U-869/ He does not do any of the dives to find the sub. Dies due to issues related to his drinking.
  • John Chatterton-Deep wreck diver who is the first to see the sub U-869. He makes many trips back to the sub over a space of 6-7 years until he can positively determine the sub’s identity.
  • Richie Kohler- A member of a renegade group called the Atlantic Wreck Divers, he started out not friendly towards Chatterton and vica versa. But when they recognized their mutual love of figuring out a wreck, they became close partners. Kohler and Chatterton were a team to discover the identify of U-869.

There are place in this book which Kurson starts something and then drops it. Such as when the German embassy approaches them about this is a German boat and they are not to disturb it. There is only that one small section, but I do not think that Kurson puts it to bed.

Chapter One - The Book of Numbers
Bill Nagle had gotten a potential deep wreck site.He and John Chatterton tried to find twelve divers who would pay $100 to go out and explore some mysterious readings another ship captain had gotten on a trip. Unless there was a “sure” thing, many of the divers were not interested. Nagle remarked that These guys don’t have the heart for wreck diving John. These guys just don’t get it. Is this a unique situation? I backpackpack, sometimes long distances. How can I explain what I feel, what drives me, to others who do not participate?

Chapter Four - John Chatterton
In Vietnam, Chatterton was a medic. His job: save lives and limbs. On his first mission, some of his colleagues went down under enemy fire. Chatterton braved the enemy fire to rescue them, running exposed and hauling them away. Reflecting on this experience, he thought how full like felt when a person got to be excellent. There is a sense of satisfaction by doing things well. I saw this when I worked. Some people would give their fullest and some would try to get by with as little as possible. My observation is that those who gave the most enjoyed themselves the most.

Chatterton’s beliefs formed during this Vietnam experiences. Kurson synthesize them down to:
  • If something was easy, someone else already would have done it.
  • If you follow another’s footsteps, you missed the problems really worth solving
  • Excellence is born of preparation, dedication, focus and tenacity; compromise on any of these and you become average
  • Sometimes life presents a great moment of decision, an intersection at which a man must decide to stop or go; person lives with these decisions forever
    • My corollary to this is one must also be prepared when these moments come
  • Examine everything; not all is as it seems or as people tell you.
  • It is easiest to live with a decision if it is based on an earnest sense of right and wrong.
  • The guy who gets killed is often the guy who is nervous
  • The worst possible decision is to give up.
In this chapter, Chatterton realizes that he was made for scuba diving/ He wondered how he had ever gone so long without knowing a man could get paid for diving. I think that when a person finds their true calling, their true vocation, they ask the question, And I get paid for this? At least that is what happened when I found out that I was pretty good as a computer programmer and that someone would actually pay me to work at what I enjoyed doing.

Chapter Eight - Nothing At That Location
Sometimes there can be wild speculation in the book. Such as is Hitler on the boat/ Was this the boat which he was trying to make his get away with? This is recognized as only speculation, nothing of substance. The question is how far a field does this speculation go? How far does it form the character of this book? Or is it just wonderings. I think it is more wondering than anything they were basing his thoughts on.

Chapter None - A Heavy Toll
After finding a human bone at the U-Who wreck, Chatterton and Kohler were faced with a moral dilemma. The question was, when they came across human remains, what do they do with them? The two of them worked through the issues surrounding this question. From the principle that the human remains should not be disturbed, they came up with five rules of engagement:
  • Respect the crewmen. The U-boat crew were sailors, doing a job and were trying to serve their own country.
  • Respect for the families. If they found something disturbing the bodies/bones, how do you talk with the families of the men?
  • Honor the brotherhood of the deep. While the divers were different than the submariners, there was enough similarities of the dangers that they understood the type of men who were in the sub.
  • Protect the wreck diver profession/avocation image. Their behavior would reflect on the sport.
  • Do the right thing. Don’t violat/dishonor the remains.

Chapter Ten - History Mauled
What is the measure of a person? Is it what a person thinks? What a person tries to be? Kohler and Chatterton thinks that most people do not get tested or even put themselves in a place where where they will have to understand their own character. Consequently, they do not really know themselves.

Chapter Thirteen - The U-Boat is Our Moment.
There is a couple of places where the name Gary Gentile comes up. Here it says that Gentile had thought that a different wreck was too busted up to identify. Chatterton was able to. Later on in the Appendix, Gary Gentile is given credit for explaining about the rivalries among boat captains. This is ionic because Gentile writes a book called Shadow Divers Exposed which calls into question Chatteron’s and Kohler’s explanation about how U-869 sank. Also what happened on deck after the Rouse’s died.

To continue on with the thought in chapter 10, When things are easy a person doesn’t really learn about himself. It’s what a person does at the moment of his greatest struggle that shows him who he really is. Some people never get that moment. Does this mean that a person should go out of their way to test their limits? I think that you cannot go out and risk your life without sufficient purpose. And that is where I think that is where most of us live-without sufficient purpose in life. What what I die for? Why am I living?

???Kurson says that circle-runners-torpedo’s which turn back on the sub where they are fired from-by their nature give little warning and bears no witness. Yet on the previous page Kurtson talks about how the radio person could tell it was coming and the captain has time to do a sharp dive. I think that the author left something unsaid or unqualified.

Not many divers go out to the U-869. The feeling is that the kind of divers who are capable are not interest. They just do not have the mindset for it.

 As I was reading Shadow Divers, I thought this was an interesting book, a pretty good read, but not too much in it to think about. There are some interesting “heart” observations which come out of the book, like what are you doing which you really love and do with all your heart? Or What do you struggle for, really struggle which you want to achieve?

As far as the book goes, it is a good adventure book, pretty well written. For the most part, it is a book you can race through, enjoy, and put away.

Notes from my book group:
When Bill Nagle says to John Chatterton in chapter one, These guys don’t have the heart for wreck diving John. These guys just don’t get it. Why would wreck diving become such a strong fascination? What do people see in it? Is this a unique avocation? What other lines of interest are there where there are true participants where the participants feel others do not understand the devotion to that interest?

Chatterton and Kohler both think about what does it mean to be excellent? How does it play into their character? They think that When things are easy a person doesn’t really learn about himself. It’s what a person does at the moment of his greatest struggle that shows him who he really is. Some people never get that moment. When do these great moments which show your character comes along? How can one prepare for these great moments? How does that tie in with who you are?

Chatterton and Kohler after examining records come up with conjectures about what took place.It turns out that their conjectures were correct. How can we be sure that what we know from history actually took place? As a side bar, Chatterton and Kohler felt that U-869 was sunk because of a circle-running torpedo. Another diver has, Gary Gentile, has written a book called Shadow Divers Exposed! which refutes their conjecture. In 2005, the Coast Guard’s determination was that Hedgehogs and depth charges from the American destroyer escorts USS Howard D. Crow and USS Koiner sank U-869. Which is right?

If you were working the sub as Chatterton and Kohler were, what would you have done when you came across some human bones? What respect do the dead have?

What occupation, advocation or purpose would you risk your life for?

Questions from Penguin-Random House
1. Is there something you would risk everything — your family, sanity, and life – to discover?
2. Was it proper for Chatterton and Kohler to risk their lives, and the lives of others, by insisting that all divers allow the remains of the fallen U-boat sailors to remain undisturbed?
3. Chatterton and Kohler lost their marriages to their quest to identify the U-Who. Was it worth it?
4. Why weren’t Chatterton and Kohler bothered more by the German sailors’ mission — namely, to sink Allied ships and kill American sailors?
5. Do you think the U-Who’s crewmen would have appreciated the efforts of Chatterton and Kohler to identify their submarine and explain their story?
6. The German government told Chatterton that all requests by scuba divers to explore sunken German war graves had been denied. Chatterton politely explained his intentions, then dove the wreck of the U-Who anyway. Was this morally acceptable?
7. Gisela Engelmann dearly loved her fiance, U-869 torpedoman Franz Nedel, despite Nedel’s fervent commitment to Hitler and Nazi ideals – and despite the fact that the Nazis had imprisoned both his father and Engelmann’s father. Could you love someone whose political beliefs were abhorrent to you?
8. Despite claustrophobic conditions, many Germans preferred submarine service to army ground service, where they might find themselves dug into trenches and dodging enemy bullets. Which would you opt for?
9. Given the grave danger of Chatterton’s final plan to dive the wreck of the U-Who, should Kohler have stuck to his first instinct and refused to accompany Chatterton?
10. Chatterton did not attend the funeral of his dear friend, Bill Nagle. He never completely explains the decision. Why do you think he didn’t attend Nagle’s funeral?
11. Divers continue to debate the ethics of removing artifacts from shipwrecks. When is it proper to take artifacts from wrecks? Are there circumstances under which artifacts should never be disturbed? Does your answer change if there are human remains onboard?
12. Chatterton seemed emotionally ready for the Rouses to identify the U-Who. But he seemed incapable of accepting the possibility of a “greenhorn” diver doing the same. Why?
13. Kohler gave up diving for two years in an effort to keep his family together. Can a person ever surrender his true passion and hope to live a happy and fulfilled life?
14. Did the discovery of the U-Who hasten Bill Nagle’s demise?
15. Given the intentions of the crewmen aboard U-869 — to attack and kill Allied ships — do you think the book treated them too kindly?

Many of these questions are either from or adapted from LitLovers.
  • Why the title of Shadow Divers?
  • Does this story work as a historical account? Factually?
  • Did the ending seem fitting? Did Kohler visit any other family or friends beside the ones mentioned?
  • Which character did you identify with? Which one did you dislike?
  • What kind of world view did the author, divers present? Were you able to identify this story’s world view? How did it affect the story?
  • Why do you think the author wrote this book?
  • What would you ask the author if you had a chance?
  • What “take aways” did you have from this book?
  • How did this book affect your view of the world?
    • What questions did you ask yourself after reading this book?
  • Talk about specific passages that struck you as significant—or interesting, profound, amusing, illuminating, disturbing, sad...?
    • What was memorable?

Good Quotes:
    • First Line: A few years ago, a friend told me a remarkable story.
    • Last Line: Thank you for coming here.”
    • When things are easy a person doesn’t really learn about himself. It’s what a person does at the moment of his greatest struggle that shows him who he really is. Some people never get that moment. Chp Chapter Thirteen - The U-Boat is Our Moment.


        Wednesday, April 25, 2018

        The Game of Thrones

        Book: The Game of Thrones
        Basic Information : Synopsis : Characters : Thoughts : Evaluation : Good Quotes : Table of Contents : References

        Basic Information:
        Author: George R.R. Martin
        Edition: paperback
        Publisher: Bantam House
        ISBN: 0553588486 (ISBN13: 9780553588484)
        Start Date: January 2017
        Read Date: April 25, 2018
        848 pages
        Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
        Language Warning: Low-Some graphic descriptions
        Rated Overall: 4 out of 5
        Fiction-Tells a good story: 4 out of 5
        Fiction-Character development: 5 out of 5

        Synopsis (Caution: Spoiler Alert-Jump to Thoughts):

        There are several stories in this book. Some are entwined with each others, some are in the background and will probably come into play in another volume.

        Some of the threads are:
        • Lord Eddard becomes the king’s chief advisor, the Hand as in the right hand, and tries to figure out why the former advisor died. He is too late to advise King Robert on this, as the King is essentially murdered and his son takes over. But the new king is the son of the Lannisters and soon after taking over the throne, has Lord Eddard beheaded.
        • King Robert, King of the realm. But his best days are behind him as he has become a drunkard has has lost most of his sense, as well as abilities to rule.
        • Lord Tyrion Lannister, the deformed son of Twian Lannister, being humorous, wise, and having his fingers in many pots. He works behind the scenes
        • Daenerys Targaryen, the last offspring of a deposed king marries a barbarian horseman. While she does not play a part in this book, her character is being set up for something further in the series
        • Jon Snow, the bastard son of Lord Eddard joins the black guard of the northern wall. He is mostly out of this story as well, but there is tension as he feels a dual allegiance to the Stark family as well as to the black guard.
        • Catelyn Tully Stark, married to Lord Eddard Stark. While a strong character in her own right, she is loyal and love Lord Eddard. She is able to mobilize resources and assists her teenage son to be the leader of forces to try to sort out the mess after King Robert dies.
        • Stark children. There are several which come into play:
          • Robb, 15 year old who inherits the title, as well as the abilities of Lord Eddard.
          • Ayra, promised to marry the son of King Robert. She cares only for the things of vanity, not the ruling.
          • Sansa, the tomboy who rather learn to use a sword rather than dance.
          • Bran, who can climb like a monkey suddenly falls and almost dies, but is crippled. ALso he cannot remember what he saw before he fell.
          • Each of the stark children have a direwolf, including Jon Snow.
        Wikipedia has a pretty good summary of the book.

        Cast of Characters:
        SparkNotes has a pretty good character list. Otherwise, see the appendix for the whose who and which team a character probably is on.

        ...we hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps, the man does not deserve to die. chp Bran I. This may be a good rule. Would I be too squeamish to pass the death sentence on someone? This is said by Lord Eddard Stark upon finding a deserter from the Black Guard. This is also in contrast to his own death where Prince/King Joffrey starts out by condemning Lord Eddard Stark to death and then turns it into a circus of the maccabe. But has someone else execute judgement. Later on in the Bran I chapter, Lord Eddard Stark tells his second son, Bran, of some of his duties. He says that you must take no pleasure in the task, but neither must you look away. A ruler who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is.

        There are several times the title is mentioned in the book.
        • The first is when Ser Jorah is talking with Daenerys. He says that the common folk do not car that the high lords are playing the game of thrones, as long as the common folk are left in peace. But then he adds, they never are.
        • When you play the game of thrones, you win or die. As said by Queen Cersei Lannister
        • There are a few more references to the phrase, game of thrones. But these are the main ones.
        The direct action which brought Lord Eddard Stark to his death was the last directive of King Robert. He had Stark write out his will which named Stark as the regent until his heir became of age. Prince Joffery as a young teenager took this, with his mother’s guidance, that Stark was usurping him. He put Stark to death over this.

        The quality of mercy is mentioned in a few places. Such as in Chapter Eddard VII where Martin has Lord Eddard Stark saying that Mercy is never a mistake. Then later on Stark says The madness of mercy in chapter Eddard XIV. Varys goes on and says that he did not recognize this quality because he rarely recognizes an honest and honorable man because of their rarity.

        The big question for Lord Eddard Stark is how to respond to an overture from Prince Joffery and his mother. Does he stand proud and say they are rotten scoundrels, not fit to take the throne? But probably lose his head over it? Or does he acknowledge that he erred and beg for mercy? He decides to beg for mercy. But Joffery puts him to death anyway.

        How the game of royalty is played is what Catelyn says: some truths did not bear saying and some lies were necessary. But can we get beyond this motif? Can we say let us stand for truth? How do we stand for truth when others lie? No good answers.

        You get the feeling that in a different story, Catelyn would be a heroic character. But in this one, her role is to wait for the men in her life to return from the action. Often we do not see the honor in waiting, we only see how useless we are.

        most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it. Chp Jon IX. True. This is even truer today than when the book was written. It is so easy to say that that is just my opponent speaking rather than hearing if there is truth in the words.

        There is a question which Catelyn asks herself, when she observes her son Robb praying to the old gods. She sees the great among those who follow him also worshiping the old gods. The question she asks herself, and which is pertinent today, what gods she kept these days, and could not find an answer. Chp Catelyn XI.

        I must have been the only person in America which did not know that Game of Thrones was a series of books. The reason why I became interested in this book is after hearing an interview with him at the Seattle Museum of Science Fiction and Fantasy. It sounded like he was much more than just someone who was out there to write a knock-off fantasy book-I think I have been spoiled by JRR Tolkien.

        I started out lost in Martins cast of characters and variety of stories for the unsuspecting, start off by taking a look at the Appendix to tell who is on what team. It will make your read more coherent. The stories Martin tells reminds me of the old Norse myths and legends. Not in the characters or stories but in the feel. The sense of darkness, deepness and oldness. Stories of another time.

        Most importantly, does Martin tell his stories well? Yes, but like reading only the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, it leaves you incomplete. The question I ask of myself is, do I want to commit to reading another 5-6,000 pages? Of course, that would be fun. Then again, my understanding is that Martin has not finished his series and do I really want to read a series without an end?

        Good Quotes:
          • First Line: “We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them.
          • Last Line: The other two pulled pulled away from her breasts and added their voices to the call, translucent wings unfolding and stirring the air, and for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons.
          • ...we hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps, the man does not deserve to die. chp Bran I
          • Mercy is never a mistake. Chp Eddard VII
          • The things we love destroy us every time. Chp Jon VI
          • Love is the bane of honor, the death of duty. Chp Jon VII
          • We all do our duty, when there is no cost to it. How easy it seems then to walk the path of honor. Yet soon or late in every man’s life comes a day when it is not easy, a day he must choose. Chp Jon VII
          • If life was worthless, what was death? Chp Daenerys VII
            Table of Contents:
            There is a wiki page which has a complete list of chapters and whose point of view the chapter is from. The page has not only A Game of Thrones but the other books in the series. It also has the pages in each chapter by edition.


                Tuesday, April 17, 2018

                The Angle of Repose

                Book: The Angle of Repose
                Basic Information : Synopsis : Characters : Thoughts : Evaluation : Book Group : New Words : Book References : Good Quotes : Table of Contents : References

                Basic Information:
                Author: Wallace Stegner
                Edition: eBook from Fresno County Public Library
                Publisher: Penguin
                ISBN: 9780140169300
                Read: April 17, 2018
                569 pages
                Genre: Fiction, Fiction-History,
                Language Warning: Medium due to both a few words, some semi-graphic scenes, as well as words and phrases which these days would not be politically correct.
                Rated Overall: 4½ out of 5
                Fiction-Tells a good story: 4 out of 5
                Fiction-Character development: 5 out of 5

                Synopsis (Caution: Spoiler Alert-Jump to Thoughts):
                There are two stories running side by side. The first takes place in 1970. It concerns Professor Lyman Ward, professor emeritus of history at UC Berkeley. Lyman recently had his leg amputated and is living alone in Grass Valley at his grandparents house. At the same time, his ex-wife divorced him.He gets interested in writing the history of his grandparents with the assistance of a UC Berkeley flower child. Lyman’s grandson would like to put him into a rest home for his safety. Lyman is fighting this. So there is the tension with him wanting to stay independent, the difference in generations with his assistance, as well his emotional struggles about his ex-wife.

                The second story is the history Lyman Ward is writing about his grandparents, Oliver and Susan Ward. Oliver is an engineer, mostly for mining in the West, but he has had a wide variety of experience. While Susan is raised in a more cultured house, with friends who will become part of literary elite. Susan also is an artist and writer. When they marry, Susan moves to New Almaden, near San Jose. where Oliver works as a mine engineer.

                When in New Almaden, Oliver establishes a reputation of trustworthiness, honor and integrity. He resigns rather than carry out an immoral order. Susan goes to Santa Cruz while Oliver goes to San Francisco to look for a job. As he is looking, he figures out how to make cement. He does not patent this process and others get rich off of his work. Finds some work in Deadwood while Susan returns back to her parents home.

                Eventually Oliver takes on a job in Leadville, CO and brings Susan back to him there. Here he finds his place and is ready to make the mine viable. Also several historic people come through Leadville as this is the center of mining in Colorado, if not the United States is. Susan feels at home being the cultural center. Frank becomes Oliver’s right-hand man while Susan finds that he is cultured and well read. But a conflict with another mine operations and the backers of the mine, forces Oliver’s mine to be shutdown.

                From Leadville, he goes to Michoacan, Mexico to investigate reopening a mine. While there, Susan falls in love with the culture. But the mine Oliver is hired to investigate is a bust and he tells his bosses that. His reputation for honesty gains, but it does not translate into a job. This leads to a separation where Susan returns to her hometown. But unbeknown to Oliver, she is pregnant. It is only after the girl is born, does she tell him. He comes rushing back from Idaho when he finds out.

                Then there is the time in Idaho where Oliver is planning on irrigating the Idaho plateau. He only needs backers to make the plan work. For a good third of the book, it tells of this time. It is also the time when Susan feels the most alone and vulnerable. After years and years and years in Idaho, Oliver’s plans finally folds, leading to separation in their marriage. But not before Susan’s emotions towards Frank have exploded. Also one of their children drown while Susan was watching them. Susan returns to her hometown again. There she realizes what she has lost and returns to Idaho to await Oliver’s return. Oliver is wandering the West, looking for work. Here their story ends and Lyman picks up a few threads from his memories.

                Cast of Characters:
                • Lyman Ward-Narrator. Legs have been amputated. Body is immobile. Grandson of Oliver and Susan Ward.
                • Rodman Ward-Grandson of Lyman Ward
                • Ada-Nurse for Lyman
                • Shelly-Ada’s daughter who is separated from her “husband”. But goes to UC Berkeley. She is filled with the jargon which went on in Berkeley during the 70’s.
                • Susan Burling Ward-grandmother of Lyman Ward and wife of Oliver Ward. Artist and author
                • Oliver Ward-grandfather of Lyman Ward and husband of Susan Ward. Mining and Irrigation. engineer.Based upon the engineer Arthur De Wint Foote. He was a master engineer in his own right with several places named after him in California.
                • Augusta Hudson-close friend, maybe lover, of Susan Burling Ward
                • Thomas Hudson-fictional character, married Augusta Hudson, instead of Susan Burling.
                • Frank Sargent-son of General Sargent. He is Oliver Ward’s primary assistant through most of his stops in the West. Susan Ward’s one bit of civilization. Eventually, there is a bit of romantic tension with the two of them.
                • Wiley-another assistant to Oliver
                • Pricey-an Englishman who Oliver feels is incompetent, but serves as his clerk. Later on, in defending the mind is is beaten senseless and can no longer function by himself. After trying to take care of him, Oliver has to send him to his family in England.
                • Augusta Hudson-close friend, maybe lover of Susan Burling Ward
                • Conrad Prager-Oliver Ward’s brother-in-law, married to his sister.
                • Henry Janin: Well known and expensive mining expert. But was caught up in a large fraud where he personally did not do a dig, but allowed others to do it,

                Several members of the Whitney Survey of California play into the book:
                • William Ashburner: William Ashburner, whose European education in mining proved useful in the mineral aspects of the Survey. He became one of the original group to be appointed Commissioners to Manage the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Tree Grove. See the book, Up and Down California by William H Brewer.
                • Clarence King: Names Mt Whitney. First head the US Geological Survey. See the book, Up and Down California by William H Brewer.

                I usually do not post pictures in my book blog, except for the book cover. But while I was putting my thoughts about The Angle of Repose together, a Jon Anderson posted several picture he took of Grass Valley in the Facebook group, Explorers of the Old West. Many of these pictures where from the North Star Mine or the North Star House which the Foote's were  very involved with. Jon Anderson has kindly granted permission to post a few of his pictures in my blog.

                Mining car from North Star Mine   Photographer-Jon Anderson
                Stamper    Photographer-Jon Anderson

                Foote's 30' Pelton Wheel    Photographer-Jon Anderson

                The Pelton Wheel was inside the building. Photographer-Jon Anderson

                Stegner’s goal was to interprenetrate the past and the present.

                Stegner worked mostly in the third person until now. Be he found that he would bridge the past to a present. It also allows you to drop back and forth, almost at will,

                Main character is really Mary Hallock Foote, with her husband, Arthur DeWint Foote.

                The Foote family felt that Stegner’s book was pretty much Foote’s letters with Stegner’s words wrapped around them.

                Probably the chief study of this book is how Oliver Ward gradually lost his love and devotion to his wife. It shows how he was quietly devoted to her, willing to sacrifice for her. But as time goes on, he becomes more reserved. This drives his wife further away from him. But what starts this wedge? Was it the foreignness of living in the West when you are a refined Eastener? Is it that he was devoted to his work as much as he was devoted to her? Was it her sense of superiority? Her lack of emotional response?

                Grass Valley

                Chapter One
                Lyman Ward is fighting to keep in his family home in Grass Valley. His grandson feels he would be better off in a nice rest home in Menlo Park. Lyman thinks about will a computer decide his fate? Is this Stegner’s fight against automatic decisions?

                Lyman is also of feeling like he is just marking time. HIs body is stiff and non-responsive, but his mind is still active. He is writing a book about his grandmother, Susan Ward (Mary Foote).

                Written in the 1970 timeframe with Lyman in Grass Valley, his family house which his grandfather and grandmother built. This is a real house called North Star House.

                What does it mean to live life chronologically vs life existentially?

                Term angle of repose is too good of a term to apply to dirt, but to also the human condition. Stegner also talks about how the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Doppler Effect have been applied to the human condition.

                Who was Henry Adams? Stegner keeps referring to him. In his lifetime, he was best known for his History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, a 9-volume work, praised for its literary style. His posthumously published memoirs, The Education of Henry Adams, won the Pulitzer Prize and went on to be named by the Modern Library as the top English-language nonfiction book of the 20th century. From Wikipedia

                Rodman finds the history of people boring. He wants to know the now about them. While Lyman wants to understand his predecessors so that he can put his own life and times into context.

                Phrase: giving up vivacity for resignation Interesting.

                Chapter Two
                Don’t scorn the substitutes of one’s youth, such as quiet, time and purpose.

                At times Susan Ward, before she was married has from her letters a close to lesbian relationship with her friend Augusta. Augusta eventually married the man whom both were interested in, who later became the editor of the Century magazine.

                Chapter Four
                Oliver worked on the Tehachapi Loop and Sutro Tunnel.

                Chapter Five
                Susan looking down over the side of a waterfall with Oliver hanging onto her feet-they were not married yet. Yet she felt secure. Stegner draws the comparison that around the same time john Muir was hanging down, looking over the side of Yosemite Falls.

                Stegner notes that meeting Oliver Ward was the first time Susan Burling was attracted to a man physically and she let her emotions lead her. There was a commitment for marriage. But first Oliver had to find the right job-one with a future, rather than a dead-end.

                Chapter Six
                Early on, it becomes evident that Susan Ward has a bit of an edge on her. She writes to a friend about some issues she had with her new husband. But in the same letters, she is private about the intimate details of their lives. You get the hint that she is someone who enjoys more the wildness of things, but needs to live with the finery of her previous life.

                There was the issue of train fare to meet Oliver. He did not send any to his new wife to join him at New Almaden. This picked at Susan’s imagination. [Turns out that he had the train fare, but then his boss pulled a fast one on him and made him pay for renovations to the company house.]

                Chapter Seven
                Towns are like people. Old ones often have character, the new ones are interchangeable. Evidently he is not talking about age, but thought. He says that Nevada City is changing from an old town to a new one.

                New Almaden

                Chapter One
                Nice description of the area around New Almaden, including Loma Prieta

                Chapter Two
                Three things which caught my attention on a single page: what is a charivari? Second, Stegner is setting up Susan to being pretty much above the class of people, particularly females, she will come to be in association with. Thirdly, Oliver restricted her to going certain places-it is out of her safety. I just cannot see a modern woman thinking in terms of restrictions.

                There are another key things said later on in this chapter. When there is nothing to show how different we are, we lose our individuality. Once Susan was married, she started taking Oliver for granted-she assumed he would always be there. Lastly Susan in a prelude to the rest of the book, where Susan turns from happiness of being with Oliver to being depressed by her surroundings and lack of civilization.

                Chapter Three
                Susan thinks that the people here were not people. This is very much what happens when people do not meet our expectations. Also when they continue to be strangers. Otherwise they become a non-entity, invisible to us, things to ignore. Also they become untouchable. Such as when a person is to be paid but is too far away, he tosses his bandana to her to put the money in. Her instinct is to catch it, but she lets it drop and have her servant pick it up and put money in it so Susan does not have to touch it.

                And then it is easy to be condescending to people. Such as they should be grateful for any small thing we do for them. Giving a throwaway picture to a peasant, smiling and thinking you have made a friend.

                In this line, Susan is ashamed of her husband because he does not match up to a refined guest. Oliver does not take part in a conversation of culture. Also Susan notices that he has not washed his hands either from working all day in the mine.

                Chapter Four
                During the time at New Almaden, Susan realizes that she could not have been happier than with Oliver. She was two years older than him and sometimes bossed him around.

                Wonder what Stegner thought about movements? He sort of thinks there are some people who seem to go in for any thing different than the normal. There is a person who comes in from Santa Cruz who has gone through a series of these: Abolition, Woman’s Suffrage, Spiritualism, and Phrenology.

                Stegner humor: Totally humorless, she made them collapse in laughter. This lady from Santa Cruz was one of those people who knew everything about everything and told people that.

                Three American gospels: Work, Progress, and Inviolability of Contract.

                Chapter Seven
                Management through fear-firing those who disagree with you or who will not suffer your abuse. Why didn’t people strike? Mine unions were not powerful in those days. Management had the upper hand. IWW (Wobblies) were 50 years away. Retaliation severe enough that a fired man’s house was dismantled.

                Susan says that she was glad when Oliver resigned from the New Almaden mine when the working conditions became intolerable. She would not respect him if he had not.

                There is such a thing as honor. Honor was not lost on Oliver.

                Things have changed-Oliver would not let Susan use her money to keep them together. Is that right?

                Home is a notion that only the nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.

                Santa Cruz

                Chapter One

                Lyman Ward’s help, Shelly, is a modern woman who has shed her inhibitions. As such, there are times she sees nothing that should be held back. Shelly is amused by the story of Susan Ward and things that they should have told more about their personal lives. While Lyman Ward is not of the set of, isn’t there anything sacred? He does think that there are things which are OK not to have explored in his grandmother’s letters and writings. The difference between private and frankness.

                Humor once again with Lyman Ward being bathed by his nurse and friend, then being physically lifted into bed. Shelly, the nurse’s daughter sees what is happening and smirks with a “knowingness” of what is happening.

                Chapter Two
                Entirely competent. Plenty of people would give a lot for those two words from those two men. These days, one has to excelled to be someone. Yet hasn’t that replaced the level of competent?

                Once doubts about a person comes into a mind, no matter what the source, it is very hard to get rid of them.

                This chapter talks about the decision to go to South America or not and be supervisor of a mine there.

                Chapter Three
                What is hydraulic cement? How is that different from “normal” cement? This is interesting to me since my father used to work for Permanente Cement. Later on this was mentioned. (e.g., Portland cement) set and become adhesive due to a chemical reaction between the dry ingredients and water. The chemical reaction results in mineral hydrates that are not very water-soluble and so are quite durable in water and safe from chemical attack. This allows setting in wet conditions or under water and further protects the hardened material from chemical attack. The chemical process for hydraulic cement found by ancient Romans used volcanic ash (pozzolana) with added lime (calcium oxide). From Wikipedia

                Chapter Four
                Mrs Elliot, the Santa Cruz busy body, which is where Susan is living now, gives advice unasked for. But in some ways she correctly analysis Oliver-Let him find a job where he can build things. What she does not understand is that he also has a mind which figures things out. In this case, he figured out how to make hydraulic cement. She goes on and talks about how Oliver should be let loose to pursue his South American dream. Susan is hesitant.

                This same person a few chapters ago was introduced to use as a Woman’s Suffrage campaigner. Now is advocating that Susan sacrifice herself. How does Mrs Elliot reconcile this?

                Chapter Five
                Today, immigration is still an issue. American workers are concerned that foreigners are taking their jobs. The same concerns were true in the late 1800’s with Asians taking American jobs. Not much has changed any.

                Chapter Six
                Stenger says the idea of getting rich with cement was Susan’s idea, not Olivers. But whosoever idea it was, Oliver was careless with the formula and others figured it out from his work. Stegner says, The West would be in good part built and some think ruined by that cement. Many would grow rich out of it. Decades later, over the mountain at Permanente, not too far from New Almaden, Henry Kaiser would make a very good thing indeed out of the argillaceous and calcareous that Oliver Ward forced into an insoluble marriage in the winter of 1877. This passage struck home to me. My Dad worked at Permanent after World War II until he retired.

                Would Oliver Ward have been tempted to be a small-town millionaire? Would he have been like George Hearst? The one thing which Oliver Ward had was character. He was an honest man. Trust was part of him. He was a builder, not a raider.

                Chapter Seven
                Is Lyman Ward trying to recapture his youth by going back to his grandparents house? He reminisces about spending his summers there. Or maybe he is just trying to keep out of a convalescent home. By being in Grass Valley, out of the way, he is keeping himself busy writing his grandmothers memoir. Lyman Ward fights against giving up.

                Do we really e deserve the people we marry?

                A good description of the mind of his grandfather, keeping him together-passion, integrity, culture, convention, …


                Chapter One
                Who is F. Jay Haynes? Is there any of his stereoscopic views around? See Wikipedia for a biography. The Getty has some pictures.

                In this chapter Lyman Ward defines why he is writing his book. It is about the marriage of his grandparents, not a biography of them.

                Chapter Two
                There is a scene in this chapter where Susan has just arrived in Leadville. Oliver makes an off-hand comment about a claim jumper claiming Oliver’s lot for himself. Susan is already to go and reek havoc on the guy-she also finds out that there is a bit of lawlessness in the old West. Oliver instead, finds a better claim and takes that as his claim. Susan says about Oliver: You let yourself be imposed on and cheated, and you don’t seem to care. Oliver’s response is that I don’t like trouble, not about anything that small. I’ve got too ugly a temper when I do get mad, so I try not to get mad. Oliver lets himself get taken advantage of. He does this over and over and over again. But it seems like he comes out ahead in the long run. Susan on the other hand feels this in her soul. (By the way, in the next chapter, the person who claim jumped was hung.) Except when they are in Idaho and Oliver gets taken advantage of to the determent of Susan’s sister.

                Later on in the chapter, Oliver meets a stage coming right at them in a too narrow place where the stage would have run them over. She realizes that it was his physical readiness, his unflusterable

                Kenosha Pass-this is on the continental divide above Fairplay. The Platte River runs to the east. I have skied a couple of miles south of this pass.

                Mosquito Pass and South Park: More places I have skied. The modern road over this 13,208’ pass is listed as one of the most dangerous roads in America.

                Interesting that Stegner uses the word taciturnity to describe Oliver’s driving of the horses. The silence he has while doing a task, like he will give his whole being to it. On the other hand, as the book goes on, this is a point which Oliver takes with abundance. At the end of the chapter, Lyman says that He never did less than the best he knew how. If that was not enough, if he felt criticism in the air, he put on his hat and walked out.

                The phrase, This is so wild and beautiful. I like it ever so much better. [than New Almaden] Just the wild and beautiful phrase says it all.

                Susan also gets a tint of religion in her writings: … all such incidences of the lower world they [the trees] leave behind them when they begin to strip for the skies; like the Holy Ones of old, they go up alone and barren of all circumstances to meet their transfiguration.
                Do you want romance or realism? We side on realism too much today without letting romance come through. Susan in reference to when they came down Mosquito Pass says Oliver paid for both [dead horses which died because of the trip to pick her up] and how much more the trip cost him (both trips) I never knew. But that is the price of Romance. To have allowed his wife to come in by stage in company with drunkenness and vice would have been realism.

                Chapter Three
                A phrase from Susan-gave forgiveness. You cannot take forgiveness only give and receive it.
                The altitude does peculiar things to people. This is Stegner’s comment. And it is true-a prolonged period in the high Sierra’s will cause certain loss of brain cells for awhile. Also an immediate climb will cause the brain to swell.

                Chapter Four
                In Leadville, there was a gradual realization that Susan could trust Oliver. Not from big heroics, but from everyday actions, such as getting water from a creek or bringing in firewood. But most importantly, taking care of her.

                Best hour of the day-when Susan was waking up and Oliver had finished his morning chores.

                Susan realizes during her time in Leadville, the power a woman has over a man. She also realizes the type of woman who would exercise that power.

                Pricey, the bookworm. Nothing disturbs him when he is reading. He can even read while riding a mule.

                Social life in Leadville grows when the US Geological Survey party arrive in Leadville. Oliver is friends with many and becomes friends with all. Their cabin is the hub of social life. This included Prager, Clarence King, Samuel Emmons, and Henry Jarin.

                Also Helen Hunt Jackson joins there group. Susan realizes that if Helen Hunt can continue being a person with the name Jackson added, then Susan can continue to be a person with the name Ward appended to her Susan Burling.

                Chapter Five
                Stegner raises the question of when men of business and men of government are friends, how do you keep their friendship and duties separate? So the dealings are fair? There is the natural temptation to help your friends and share information. Or worse yet, to benefit from such information. Stegner puts into King’s mouth the questions, How does one guarantee the probity of government science? Then King answers his own question, You pick men you would trust with your life and you trust them with the Public Domain.

                Stegner goes on and talks about how Congress will seize upon a report, touting its benefits, but ignoring its recommendations.

                Oliver is not a “talker”. Susan asks how will people know how good he is if he does not talk about his achievements or at least talk to let people know how intelligent he is? But the men whom Oliver associates with understands results and character. This is more important. Oliver when he does speak, forces the answer to an important question.

                Chapter Six
                Stegner points out that marriages used to last till death do you part. With sexual liberation, it now lasts a pretty short period of time. There is a discussion with Shelly, Lyman’s temp worker, about sexual inhibitions. She thinks he is hiding things in Susan’s life. He does not care to put more on record than what Susan wanted to be told. Shelly says that this shows Lyman’s inhibitions than Susan’s.

                Lyman notes that even if the reader wanted to read something sexual into a story, don’t they have the imagination to make it happen in their minds rather than have the author say it?

                Also Stegner is not a fan of discussions which let everything out in the open. I think he is more in tune with Chesterton where he prefers something in reserve for a person’s character.
                Oliver takes over the Adelaide mine rather than sign on with the US Geological Survey. This way, he would provide stability for his wife and incoming child.

                Chapter Seven
                Stegner says that Ulysses S Grant Jr had no consequence. Except, he did. He was one of the people who was involved with getting Balboa Park in San Diego built. Also Stegner introduces a character, Ferd Ward who is a relative of Oliver. Ferd Ward is a real person who did lead the Grants to financial ruin.

                Chapter Eight
                Susan that it ...a deficiency in herself that her imagination was so controlled by things. This is interesting to me since she is an artist and I would have thought being creative by nature would have had her maybe starting with the concrete, but moving out of concrete to something beyond the touch and feel.

                Mentions the Argentine mine. have skied, not to the pass, but on both side of Argentine Pass. Cold, cold, cold area. But this seems to be far away from Leadville. Wonder if there is another place they are talking about.

                Chapter Ten
                Ollie, the son, is sick. Susan will not leave his side and consequently grows sick as well, but not with malaria, but with anxiety.


                Chapter One
                Lyman Ward is 58 in 1970, which puts him born in 1912

                Whatever happened in Idaho, Susan Ward never recovered from it. She tried to make Lyman what she was hoping her own son would be like. But maybe in a quieted, less forceful way, with less emotion.

                Lyman talks about how his grandmother harbored a conviction that she gave up something to marry Oliver Ward. She would have grown more as an artist. This was the day before women for liberated. So it is hard to say if she would have met anyone who could have shown her the way to be a fulfilled woman. He then makes the exception of Mary Cassatt, whom he felt could have shown her how to be a woman artist.

                She had a heart as well as an eye. This is in reference to when they went to Michoacan. She was able to observe the life down there, not only with her emotions, but able to see the artistry of possibility there.

                Chapter Two
                Enrique, mi alma = Enrique, my soul
                What is Stegner saying by having the how courtyard saying this?

                Chapter Three
                What kind of authority is there? What is the preferable kind? Several are listed:
                • money power
                • sensibility and probity
                • rigor
                • savoir faire
                • promptness in crisis
                Susan felt that a figure in Mexico exhibit more authority than all the rest in how he got together a a caravan to visit a mine a couple of weeks away. She thinks of him as a ringmaster.

                Susan realizes that first, Oliver could never be like the people she met in Mexico. Neither did she want him to pretend to be. She says that He could not have been pompous… without laughing. He had to be himself-nothing spectacular, nothing gorgeous or picturesque. Is there anything more that we can be besides ourselves?

                Chapter Four
                Respectability is a burden perhaps greater than I want to bear. Susan wanted to go for a walk in the coolness of the evening. But the custom there would be only for those who were pursuing a man. So she was forced into a carriage with the curtain drawn. No coolness, no relief.

                On the Bough

                Chapter Two
                Susan had moved back to Milton and found out that she was pregnant. But she did not tell Oliver that she was as he was out on a contract at a mine, even though she wrote him about other things. When Oliver finds out that she has given birth to a daughter, he rushes back home and is glad to meet his new daughter. But also is very upset with Susan for not telling him. She understands his right to being upset, but also resents it as well.

                Susan is taking her place with not being honest with Oliver. Oliver has a big project he is planning in Idaho. But Susan can only see it as the end of the world. But she does not let him know this. Instead she finds things which she says are reasons they should not go. Some of them centers on having a family now an concerned with them growing up as savages. The decision comes down to that she gives up rather than it being a mutual decision. This will come back as resentment about how Oliver forced her to go to Idaho.

                The Canyon

                Chapter One
                It is one of the compensations of being a pioneer that one may see it wild and unbroken. To do this, there is a cost, a large cost. Wonder if I would be up to the challenge?

                In describing a place called Kuna, Stegner says:
                It is a place where silence closes about you after the bustle of the train, where a soft dry wind from great distances hums through the telephone wires and a stage road goes out of sight in one direction and a new railroad track in another. There is not a tree, nothing but sage. As moonlight unto sunlight is that desert sage to other greens. The wind has magic in it, and the air is full of birds and birdsong.
                This may be Stegner’s best piece of writing in the book. At least for me, I can imagine myself being in Kuna and experiencing the sense of quiet desolation a town like that must have had.

                Chapter Two
                I would rather be picturesquely uncomfortable than comfortably dull. Does this change as this living goes on year after year? Yes, but later on this is where Susan’s mind goes to.

                Chapter Three
                What a description-speaking of Oliver, Stegner says that he was on pioneer time-He met trains that had not yet arrived. He waited on platforms that hadn’t yet been built, … A very good way to say that Oliver was ahead of his time. Also a way of saying that if the world is not ready for your ideas, then it is better to hold off on trying to implement them. Oliver spent a long time doing that-waiting to get enough backing to make it happen-it did not happen under Oliver’s watch.

                Oliver and Susans were makers and doers, not ones who tried to be rich quick. They choose success and poverty over riches and failure.

                According to Stegner, everyone should have the experience of building their own house out of the materials laying around.

                Chapter Four
                Lyman Ward recognizes that he is using his grandmother’s life so that he can ignore his own.

                Lyman recognizes that it is an easy mistake to think that non-talkers are non-feelers. [or for that matters, non-thinkers.] He says this in relationship to his own father who seldom spoke. But it was also true of his own grandfather. Sometimes the feelings are just buried. He felt his grandmother did not not understand his father’s emotions. This contributed to his inward looking, not being able to express himself.

                On the other hand, his grandfather knew some of his father’s inner feelings and how to build him up. Instead of scolding him when he did something something dangerous, but in response to a crisis, Oliver told him how proud he was.

                Chapter Five
                1970 knows nothing about isolation and nothing about silence. Stegner goes on talking about what breaks silence in our lives. Stegner I think only is thinking of human sounds. But even today, you can go places where only the sound of birds and the rushing water is heard.

                It is in this chapter which two things happen. First, Oliver gets rejected again for funding. This leads to depression. Then Oliver turns to drink. This turns Susan against him in disgust. It affects her relationship with Oliver for the rest of the book.

                Chapter Six
                Lyman noted that Oliver worked out his stress by physical work. He worked around his place, insisted of getting mad at his wife or kids.

                Through Susan’s letters, Lyman sees his Grandparents love get corroded, losing the cement which bound them together. Maybe unmet expectations; maybe lack of success; maybe there was too much difference between the two too bridge.

                Chapter Seven
                Stegner makes through Lyman is that Oliver was easy to cheat and trusted people. Does trust and cheating go together? Is Reagan’s true? (That is, Trust but verify.) Steven Covey wrote a book called The Speed of Trust which basically said that the more you trust people, the faster things get done. But where that book lacked, I thought, was how to do you get to the place where you can trust someone? Or do you go in trusting and then get hurt? On the other hand, Oliver invoked trust in his grandson, enough so his assistant could tell even after Oliver had been dead 35 years. So no great answers in this blog or in this book.

                Stegner uses the term, afro in the woodpile. Which is more politically correct than the original was according to Wikipedia. The current phrase is “skeletons in the woodpile.” This actually comes from trying to smuggle blacks to safety during the safety era. I wonder about all of this going back and correcting something which was appropriate in another age, but is in appropriate today. What will we think is inappropriate in 40 years?

                Also, Stegner brings in Lyman’s ex-wife. She cheated on him by going off with Lyman’s surgeon. Stegner now starts to build up this character. As Lyman ponders his relation with his wife, he realizes that she had other needs than just the sedate role of being the wife of an academic. He senses that much of his grandson’s desire to put him into a rest home may be coming from his ex-wife. Also Rodman has started talking to him about forgiving her. But that only started when his ex-wife’s lover killed himself.

                What really bugs Lyman about Ellen, his ex-wife, is that she left him when he was most helpless. Not because of an arguement, or any direct feelings of hurt, but because he was not able to defend himself.

                But this talk also makes Lyman think about himself. He says that like the other males in his family, he is into justice, not mercy. His thinking is that if justice is served, there is no need for mercy. While not wanting the eye for an eye kind of justice, neither is he willing to let go of his grudge either, not that I blame him. But he does make that statement about justice served. Isn’t when justice is served, that mercy is also needed? Yes a person’s actions should have consequences, but then again, we do enough wrong, that if all of our actions are accounted for, we would be dead and probably dead as a species. That is where the administration of mercy comes in. How to do it, not to avoid consequences, but to remedy the situation. That is the key.

                Lyman also recognizes that his grandmother Susan was someone who carried a grudge against Oliver. He draws, not a parallel, but something which is tangential in her grudge. I think he sees a certain similarities of personality.

                It is easier to die than move, at least on the Other Side you don’t need trunks.

                And then Stegner talks about death. Susan was well acquainted with it. If they were going to have chicken for dinner, she would be the one who killed it. When their baby died, she and her family needed to take care of the arrangements. There was no “death” industry in those days. Stegner says that Susan was well acquainted with animal pain. This lead to much more honesty in relationships. Also more definite boundaries, but in some ways more forgiveness when those boundaries were crossed.

                Susan felt this time was the most wasted time of their lives.

                The Mesa

                Chapter One
                One of the trust items is that Oliver had a lawyer file a claim for Susan’s sister on a land. Oliver trusted that he did it. A source of separation with Susan is that the lawyer did not and filed one for himself. Susan blamed Oliver for this and for the swindle the man had done to her sister.

                Oliver shows his love by his actions. Between the Canyon house and the Mesa, Susan has gone back to Milton to live with her family. When Susan finally comes back, Oliver has a house ready on the Mesa. He has planted a lane of trees as a sign and promise of better things to come.

                Chapter Two
                Lyman talks about loss of friends-some left out of embarrassment, others because of the divorce. He is lonely, but is stubborn enough not to have that over take his life.

                Bancroft’s advice to historians: present your subject in his own terms, judge him in yours. I think I alluded to this earlier. But this is said better.

                Chapter Three
                This line is what the book is about: Life everything here, it is large and raw. it is for the future, it sacrifices the present for what is to come. Stegner goes on and says that when it matures, it [the house, the area, the future] will be charming. But now all seems to be hopeless. This sense of hopelessness causes Susan to despair both of their ability to make things work, both of their dreams and Oliver and Susan’s relationship. From here on out the rest of book gathers a sense of hopelessness like a person sliding down sand, trying to claw their way to the top. It may be that in all things, we need that hope of something different tomorrow that causes us to continue to try today.

                Another reference to “the angle of repose” which Stegner reminds us of what it is.

                Susan says that Oliver works too hard. She does not mind that he does hard work, but that he sacrifices his family to work hard.

                On the other hand, Susan wants her son, Ollie to be different than her husband. She wants him to be refined and know that there can be more than just living on top of a horse. But Ollie is suited to be like his father rather than his mother. This will be the cause of him divorcing himself from his mother.

                darned elbows-pride gets in the way of knowing people.

                There is a bit of stoicism here as well. Susan thinks that what man and woman are born to is unhappiness. Such a down thought. Also I think there is something which she is missing. From the Christian view, this is not how we see things. When you look at important Christian documents, such as the Westminster Catechism, you see: Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
                A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. What sticks out is the glorify and enjoy part. This is what we are made for, to enjoy, not to go through life downtrodden. There will be times, but that is not the end.

                The Rose Garden-in Oliver’s mind, the gift to Susan as a means of saying thank you for sticking to him through all of the difficulties.

                Evaluation of the situation-Oliver is a good man with one weakness, drink under depression.. Susan feels like she is being unfaithful to him, whether physically or in spirit, the book never says. Also, she cannot forgive him for that weakness. So she watches him to see if he will fail.

                Chapter Four
                Susan considers her time in Idaho as a time of exile. When Oliver understands this, he feels less than supported. This gets to the point of faith and trust. The central point is did Susan really have faith that Oliver’s project would work out? Did Oliver over trust people?

                Chapter Five
                Is rage a better response than self-blame when someone trusts another and is wronged?

                Then there is the tension between Susan and Frank. They are drawn to each other, but they both love Oliver as well. Susan tries to find excuses to distance herself from Frank. But they keep getting drawn closer. Lyman wonders if this is what happened to his wife and surgeon.

                Chapter Six
                Lyman realizes that at this stage of his life, the Fall is not a season to look forward to as in a new school year, but as the beginning of an ending.

                Lyman ponders the life of his assistant Shelly. He says that he thinks that someone should have taught her to question the act of questioning. Interesting statement. Why do we question things? Is it because we are unsure? Is it because we want to know? Or more likely it is because we want to tear down. The problem is in the tearing down, what do we replace it with? Nothing? Something? They both can be questioned and we get into a state of not-knowing.

                Oneida Colony- a perfectionist religious communal society founded by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848 in Oneida, New York. The community believed that Jesus had already returned in AD 70, making it possible for them to bring about Jesus's millennial kingdom themselves, and be free of sin and perfect in this world, not just in Heaven From Wikipedia

                Stegner also talks about the problems with communal life.

                Chapter Seven
                Difference between historical writing and fiction: Henry James quote about Don’t tell me too much so that he could invent between facts. While the historian needs more facts to piece together the story.

                Susan understands that in order to patch things up, she has to return to the West.

                Then there is the character of Oliver. If he is in debt, he wants to pay it off, and he will not stop until he does. In doing so, he is moving around: Merced, Salt Lake City, Mazatlan, ...

                Susan laments that she is losing her family, at least their love.

                Oliver rips up the rose garden. This is a sign that their love has been lost.

                The Zodiac Cottage

                Chapter One
                A friend of Lyman named Ed, who has lots of physical problems. But a quality about him is that he knows what he can do and lets others do what they can do. A good mindset.

                In the days which Stegner wrote this book, you could still use the N-word. He uses it once or twice in the book, more as a description of something than in reference to a person.

                Lyman makes reference to the house. Says that it was an early Maybeck house and hopes that one day it becomes part of the National Trust. In reality, this was the North Star house. Julia Morgan, the one who was the architect for Hearst Castle, was the one who designed this house. It is part of the National Registry of Historic Landmarks.

                Reasons for Susan’s unhappiness after Idaho:
                • Felt that she had been unfaithful to Oliver
                • Blamed herself for the drowning of her daughter
                • Suicide of her lover, Frank
                • Lost the trust of Oliver
                • Lost the trust of her son.

                Things changed around Oliver and Susan, but they continued to live unhappy lives with each other. Lyman says that Susan recognized her mistake-that is not appreciating him until it was too late. Oliver never forgave her either. Consequences was that they were was not physicalness to their marriage after that point-no touching, no kissing, no tenderness.
                And then there is the “angle of Repose” again. To Lyman, it means death. And in Susan and Oliver’s case, it meant a living death

                In this chapter, most of it is a dream. A dream that his ex walked back into his life. He had conversations with her about his grandparents. Then, he had a decision to make-does he take the physicalness of Shelly or the long years with with ex? I think he makes the decision to go with his ex. But that is a dream.

                Wisdom … is knowing what you have to accept.

                The last line sums up the book’s question. In this not-quite-quiet darkness, while the diesel breaks its heart more and more faintly on the mountain grade, I lie wondering if I am man enough to be a bigger man than my grandfather. The question is not so much about the grandmother, but the grandfather. The one who bore much for his wife.

                 Stegner uses so many names which I am familiar with-either places or people, it seems like I have lived in part of this book. That helped draw me in. This is a book which you have to sit down and listen to the story rather than have it come at you. The words and flow is where Stegner excels rather than descriptions of action.

                Stegner writes with humor, such as describing Pricey’s reading habits and the trickery which goes along with it. But it is not slapstick, but more of a description of what goes on in life. And yet, it is a depressing story. A story of lost love and a story of the taming of the West. It is based upon the real lives of Mary and Arthur Foote.

                Would I read another of Stegner’s books? I would. But it would need to be intentional, rather than just picking up a book to read.

                Notes from my book group:

                What is an angle of repose? Why does Stegner use this as a title? Which character(s) and/or situation(s) would this term apply to? How?

                There is several references to physical descriptions, such as angle of repose, the Doppler Effect, the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Sometimes these are applied to more human endeavors. How do they match up to the human condition? Is there a problem taking these physical laws and applying them to the human condition?

                What do you think of Stegner's narrative technique, i.e., his use of a contemporary historian to tell Susan Ward's story? Is Lyman Ward a reliable narrator? How would this novel be different if Lyman's own story were excluded? How does Stegner use these limitations to shape Lyman's role as a narrator and biographer? What is Stegner saying about the past and future?

                Stegner has a laundry lists of places, people books and authors. Any of it meaningful to you? Or are they more thrown in to give you context and a feeling of being there?

                Stegner's novels are known for their strong sense of place. What role does the terrain in the West play in Angle of Repose? Would you consider the land to be a 'character' in the novel? Can you describe this character in human terms? From the Publisher

                Describe Oliver’s character and how he evolves through the story. Then do the same for Susan.

                Who did you identify with? Why? Who do you think Lyman did?

                At the end of the second chapter in the Leadville section, Stegner says about Oliver: At the end of the chapter, Lyman says that He never did less than the best he knew how. If that was not enough, if he felt criticism in the air, he put on his hat and walked out. Comment on this. Is this good way to handle things? How does it play out later in Oliver’s life?

                To go on about Oliver, he is not a talker. yet his achievements is known. How? Also how does this fit in with a previous book of ours, Quiet?

                What drives Oliver and Susan apart? Where did this division begin and what kept the division widening?

                What would Susan Ward’s role look like today? Was she inhibited from expressing herself as a person? In what ways? Would she be less inhibited today? Would that have been a good thing?

                What would have happened to Susan if she had married Thomas Hudson? Was marrying Oliver the wrong choice? From Shmoop

                Is the line, I suppose in a way we deserve the people we marry a throw away? Or is there wisdom behind it? How do we interpret the line? (Chp New Almaden, 7)

                In the 5th chapter of the Leadville section, there is a discussion about the Public Domain: How does one guarantee the probity of government science? King answers his own question, You pick men you would trust with your life and you trust them with the Public Domain. How do we keep government science trustworthy? Or is it? Does Kings answer work today?

                There are discussions between Lyman and Shelly about how to present intimacy in a novel. This ranges from being discrete to full fledged graphic portrayal. This leads up to two stories at the end of the book. The first is the final relationship between Susan and Frank and Agnes’ death. The second is Lyman’s dream between him, his ex and Shelly. Does Stegner’s means of not being explicit leave something out in how come Oliver and Susan split? Or is there not enough to get resolution? Also in terms of Lyman’s dream, do you wish there was less? Does it help to explain Lyman more as he works through resolving his thoughts towards his ex and Shelly?

                Roses play an insignificant, but meaningful part in the story. What is the meanings which Stegner places on them?

                Grass Valley takes on a large role in this book, but we only hear about Lyman’s remembrances about his grandparents here? Why? Why does Stegner end with Susan in Idaho?
                Note: This house is called the North Star House or Foote Mansion. It still stands today and is on the National Registry of Historic Landmarks (10001191). Rennovations was started in the mid 2000’s. The address is 12075 Old Auburn Road, Grass Valley. This was Julia Morgan’s first significant, large-scale, residential project.

                Did the ending seem fitting? Satisfying? Predictable?

                Every story has a world view. Were you able to identify this story’s world view? What was it? How did it affect the story?

                Why do you think the author wrote this book? What would you ask the author if you had a chance?

                What “take aways” did you have from this book?

                Talk about specific passages that struck you as significant—or interesting, profound, amusing, illuminating, disturbing, sad...?
                  • What was memorable?

                Does Stegner engage in gadzookery? (With his many uses of thee’s)


                From Shmoop:
                1. What would have happened to Susan if she had married Thomas Hudson?
                2. Do you think that Susan and Augusta's relationship is romantic on any level? Why or why not?
                3. Is Rodman a good son? Explain.
                4. In your view, why is Lyman writing his book? Explain your reasoning.
                5. Does Ellen deserve forgiveness? Why or why not?
                6. Where do you think Shelly goes after the novel ends? Explain.
                7. Should Susan have broken up with Oliver and married Frank? Explain.
                8. Does Lyman ever finish his book?


                1. What do you think of Stegner's narrative technique, i.e., his use of a contemporary historian to tell Susan Ward's story? Is Lyman Ward a reliable narrator? How would this novel be different if Lyman's own story were excluded?
                2. Stegner's narrator is confined to a wheelchair and partially paralyzed. He cannot move his head to either side, and thus can only look straight ahead. How does Stegner use these limitations to shape Lyman's role as a narrator and biographer? What is Stegner saying about the past and future?
                3. How much of Susan Ward's destiny was determined by the era in which she lived and the limitations that era placed on a woman's freedom? Do you think of her as a woman ahead of her time?
                4. Throughout the novel, Susan is torn between her old life on the east coast and her new one on the west. To each of her western homes she strives to bring a sense of gentility and comfort, even in the most rudimentary of circumstances. Her cabin in Leadville, for instance, becomes a magnet for the town's cultural elite despite the cramped quarters. Are the efforts futile or worthwhile? Do you applaud her attempts at civilizing the West or is she merely unable to accept another way of life for what it is? Is there a fundamental difference between America's two coasts today?
                5. Stegner eliminates any concrete evidence of Susan's infidelity with Frank Sargent, leaving Lyman the task of piecing together the events that led up to Agnes's death. Why are these details left deliberately obscure? Does this heighten or mitigate the effects of Agnes's death on the story? Is Lyman being fair to Susan in his depiction of these events?
                6. Susan often wonders if she made the right decision in marrying Oliver. Would someone like Thomas Hudson have brought her more happiness? What do you imagine Susan's life would have been like if she had stayed in the East? How did her years in the West shape her character?
                7. Why does the novel end with Susan's return to Idaho? Why is it significant that the details of her life in the house in Grass Valley are given to us through the present only?
                8. Do you think Lyman identifies more with his grandmother or his grandfather? How do the various aspects of his present situation—i.e., age, physical disability, marriage, career—compare and contrast to those of his grandparents?
                9. The geologic term 'angle of repose', defines the angle of the slope at which debris will cease rolling downhill and settle in one place, as in a landslide. Why do you think Stegner chose this term for the title of his novel? By the end of the novel, has Lyman reached his own angle of repose? How does he change over the course of the summer in which this novel takes place?
                10. Stegner's novels are known for their strong sense of place. What role does the terrain in the West play in Angle of Repose? Would you consider the land to be a 'character' in the novel? Can you describe this character in human terms?
                11. The story of America's western expansion has been told in myriad ways, but often with the same details: danger and hardships, brave but crude pioneers, and get-rich-quick schemes peddled by untrustworthy scam artists. How do Susan and Oliver's experiences compare and contrast with these myths of the American West? How is each a hero in his or her own right? How are they different from the stereotypical western hero?
                12. Angle of Repose was written in 1971, during a period of great upheaval in America's social and political culture. How does Stegner's novel reflect the issues that were prevalent at the time of his writing? What are the parallels, if any, between Susan Ward's story and that of Shelly Hawkes? How does each woman represent her own era? Is either story as relevant today?

                New Words:

                • antimacassars (Grass Valley, 1): a piece of cloth put over the back of a chair to protect it from grease and dirt or as an ornament.
                • vivacity (Grass Valley, 1): the quality of being attractively lively and animated.
                • charivari (New Almaden, 2): a noisy mock serenade performed by a group of people to celebrate a marriage or mock an unpopular person.
                • theodolite eyepiece (New Almaden, 3):
                • Judas Tree (New Almaden, 7): Cercis siliquastrum, commonly known as the Judas tree
                • narcosis (New Almaden, 7): a state of stupor, drowsiness, or unconsciousness produced by drugs.
                • Fresno scrapers (chp Leadville, 2):a machine pulled by horses used for constructing canals and ditches in sandy soil. The design of the Fresno Scraper forms the basis of most modern earthmoving scrapers, having the ability to scrape and move a quantity of soil, and also to discharge it at a controlled depth, thus quadrupling the volume which could be handled manually
                • taciturnity (chp Leadville, 2): might be snobby, naturally quiet, or just shy. Having its origin in the Latin tacitus, "silent," taciturn came to be used in mid-18th-century English in the sense "habitually silent."
                • effete (chp Leadville, 3): affected, over refined, and ineffectual.
                • Silurian (chp Leadville, 4): a geologic period and system spanning 24.6 million years from the end of the Ordovician Period, at 443.8 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Devonian Period, 419.2 Mya
                • palaver (chp Leadville, 10): prolonged and idle discussion.
                • darned elbows (chp Mesa, 3): referring to shirts which have been patched
                • historical rictus (chp Mesa, 6): rictus-the gaping or opening of the mouth.

                Book References:
                • Clarence Dutton
                • John Wesley Powell
                • Arthur De Wint Foote
                • Literary History of the United States by Wallace Stegner
                • Selected American Prose: The Realistic Movement: 1840-1900 an anthology
                • Edith Wharton
                • John Greenleaf Whittier
                • The Culprit Fay by Joseph Rodman Drake
                • Lyman Beecher
                • Harriet Beecher Stowe
                • Edward Everett Hale
                • The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
                • Snowbound
                • Hanging of the Crane by Longfellow
                • The Skeleton in Armor
                • Bret Harte
                • Scarlet Letter
                • Henry James
                • Novelle by Goethe
                • Turgenev
                • Daniel Deronda
                • Leaves of Grass
                • Bradford Curtis, Margaret Fuller
                • Hawthorne
                • Helen Hunt jackson
                • Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada by Clarence King
                • Louisa Alcott
                • Scott
                • Kipling
                • Cooper
                • Emerson
                • Artemis Ward
                • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
                • Idylls of the King by Tennyson
                • The Freshening Day by Thomas-may not be a real book
                • Insects of the Various Kinds - another maybe not real story

                Good Quotes:
                  • First Line: Now I believe they will leave me alone.
                  • Last Line: In this not-quite-quiet darkness, while the diesel breaks its heart more and more faintly on the mountain grade, I lie wondering if I am man enough to be a bigger man than my grandfather.
                  • Towns are like people. Old ones often have character, the new ones are interchangeable. Chp Grass Valley, 7
                  • Home is a notion that only the nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend. Chp New Almaden, 7
                  • I suppose in a way we deserve the people we marry. Chp New Almaden, 7
                  • I would rather be picturesquely uncomfortable than comfortably dull. Chp The Canyon, 2
                  • No life goes past so swiftly as an eventless one, no clock spins like a clock whose days are all alike. Chp The Canyon, 4
                    Table of Contents:
                    • Introduction
                    • Grass Valley
                    • New Almaden
                    • Santa Cruz
                    • Leadville
                    • Michoacan
                    • On the Bough
                    • The Canyon
                    • The Mesa
                    • The Zodiac Cottage