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The Spectator Bird
     

The Spectator Bird

4.0 9
by Wallace Stegner
 

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This tour-de-force of American literature and a winner of the National Book Award is a profound, intimate, affecting novel from one of the most esteemed literary minds of the last century and a beloved chronicler of the West.
 
Joe Allston is a cantankerous, retired literary agent who is, in his own words, "just killing time until time gets around to

Overview

This tour-de-force of American literature and a winner of the National Book Award is a profound, intimate, affecting novel from one of the most esteemed literary minds of the last century and a beloved chronicler of the West.
 
Joe Allston is a cantankerous, retired literary agent who is, in his own words, "just killing time until time gets around to killing me." His parents and his only son are long dead, leaving him with neither ancestors nor descendants, tradition nor ties. His job, trafficking the talent of others, has not been his choice. He has passed through life as a spectator, before retreating to the woods of California in the 1970s with only his wife, Ruth, by his side. When an unexpected postcard from a long-lost friend arrives, Allston returns to the journals of a trip he has taken years before, a journey to his mother's birth­place where he once sought a link with his past. Uncovering this history floods Allston with memories, both grotesque and poignant, and finally vindicates him of his past and lays bare that Joe Allston has never been quite spectator enough.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Edward Herrmann is perhaps best known to younger audiences as kindly, patrician Richard Gilmore on the television series Gilmore Girls. Here, Herrmann uses his same elegant persona to amplify and underscore the bittersweet nuance of Stegner's novel about a retired man who travels to his mother's Danish hometown. There are hidden reserves of frustration and displeasure in Stegner's tale, and Herrmann aptly conveys these emotions with short, sharp bursts of dialogue matched with longer, more drawn-out ellipses of exposition. He even manages a serviceable Danish accent to top off his flawless performance. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“Wallace Stegner’s is one of the most beguiling voices of [the] era, and The Spectator Bird is one of his most appealing works.”—Jane Smiley, from the introduction
 
“A fabulously written account of regret, memory and the subtleties and challenges of a long successful marriage. Stegner deals with the dual threads of the novel with aplomb.... A thoughtful, crystalline book.” —Matthew Spencer, The Guardian

“There are rivers undammed, desert vistas unspoiled and forests uncut in the wondrous West because of his pen.” —Timothy Egan, The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385078900
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/28/1976
Pages:
240

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"It is the autobiographical nature of Stegner's work . . . that makes it so compelling. In every novel, the narrator has all the gifts of language, empathy, and philosophy, but he nonetheless can never free himself from the torments of the past."
-Jane Smiley, from the Introduction

"Elegant and entertaining . . . every scene [is] adroitly staged and each effect precisely accomplished."
-The Atlantic

Meet the Author

Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) was the author of, among other novels, Remembering Laughter, 1937; The Big Rock Candy Mountain, 1943; Joe Hill, 1950; All the Little Live Things, 1967 (Commonwealth Club Gold Medal); A Shooting Star, 1961; Angle of Repose, 1971 (Pulitzer Prize); The Spectator Bird, 1976 (National Book Award, 1977); Recapitulation, 1979; and Crossing to Safety, 1987. His nonfiction includes Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, 1954; Wolf Willow, 1963; The Sound of Mountain Water (essays), 1969; The Uneasy Chair: A Biography of Bernard DeVoto, 1974; and Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West (1992). Three of his short stories have won O. Henry Prizes, and in 1980 he received the Robert Kirsch Award from the Los Angeles Times for his lifetime literary achievements. His Collected Stories was published in 1990.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
February 18, 1909
Date of Death:
April 13, 1993
Place of Birth:
Lake Mills, Iowa
Place of Death:
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Education:
B.A., University of Utah, 1930; attended University of California, 1932-33; Ph. D., State University of Iowa, 1935

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The Spectator Bird 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that this was one of the best books that I have read recently. While I am younger than the narrator, he muses about many issues related to aging and fulfillment that I an beginning to consider. There are a number of beautiful and/or profound passages and the ultimate story definitely held my attention and some of the themes are very thought provoking.
patio14 More than 1 year ago
Stegner is a beautiful writer. His descriptions are thought filled and are lovely observations of life and the world around us. His character in this book makes one think he was also a most accurate observer of people. I will read anything he wrote, but Angle of Repose is still my favorite.
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