To: ALL Date: 03/21
From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 9:18 AM
Don't mean to be starting the discussion early, but I have
just read the first 30 pages CROSSING TO SAFETY and want to
encourage everyone to join in! It has absolutely grabbed
me. Wasn't able to read ANGLE OF REPOSE with you though I
did buy the book. Will be interested to hear the
comparisons between them as I plan to read Angle at another
=============== Reply 1 of Note 14 =================
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 03/23
From: TPRS02A SABRINA MOLDEN Time: 0:50 AM
My father died last week which has been my reason for not
posting. I want to share that, as I read CROSSING a few
months ago,I thought about how blessed my husband and I
are to have good friends like Charity and Sid. Our such
friends traveled five hours and spent the whole weekend
with us during this grieving period. We had to push them
out the door to leave to get back to their own lives and
jobs. Keep looking for friends like these. They are
treasures!! One of my NEWEST friends who has also been a
JEWEL to me during this difficult time in my life is one of
the BEST FRIENDS I have ever had. Happy Reading! Sabrina
=============== Reply 2 of Note 14 =================
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 03/23
From: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Time: 1:47 AM
While I enjoyed CTS, I'm not sure that I'd be able to
handle a friend like Charity. Didn't she seem just a
little overbearing to you?
--Jim in Oregon
=============== Reply 3 of Note 14 =================
To: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Date: 03/23
From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 9:31 AM
I'm still about half-way through CTS and must admit that I
come in a little closer to your view, Jim. I've had
friends that had some of Charity's qualities and must admit
that I've edged out of the relationship eventually. I tend
to have a distinct adversion to being managed even when I
can see all of the positive sides of it. However, I think
part of what Stegner does so well in this story is showing
you that there is no absolute conclusion on this question.
The positives and negatives ebb and flow, but the towering
fact of the relationship is paramount. As one who has
trouble sustaining close friendships with the pace of my
life, this is very interesting to me.
Since this is my first reading of Stegner, I feel like
I've found a little piece of gold and a trail to find more.
Am hoping that his other novels are this good.
Must also admit to wondering if my reading tastes are a
bit "plebian" as I note my reactions to CTS. It's not a
novel of enormous complexity, but simply a wonderful story
with masterful characterizations. And, I feel like I'm
coming home as I'm reading it. Barbara
=============== Reply 5 of Note 14 =================
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 03/23
From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:58 AM
Barbara: I'm enjoying watching you enjoy 'Crossing to
Safety' -- it's one of my all time favorites. I liked it
MUCH more than 'Angle of Repose' -- and have never really
figured out why. They are such different books, almost as if
they were written by different people. In fact, I can't
recall another example in my experience, where a writer has
produced two works that 'feel' so different. Is it me or is
it the Memorex?
Dick in Alaska
=============== Reply 7 of Note 14 =================
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 03/23
From: PKHF06A ADELE STRATTON Time: 5:14 PM
At last I'm in sync with something the CR's are reading! I
finished CTS this week and thought it was wonderful. Jane,
I too am intrigued by the names of the females. In fact,
I'm intrigued by many aspects of this book.
I certainly didn't see Charity as the embodiment of her
name. While it's true Sid and Charity helped Larry and
Sally financially, Charity in many instances was anything
but charitable to her own husband. And isn't it ironic that
Charity's ability to be charitable to everyone else was the
direct result of her husband's great wealth?
Wasn't it curious that Aunt Emily (Charity and Comfort's
mother) named her daughters with characteristics? Seems to
me it was her first attempt at controlling them. Charity
did have a good teacher!
The central point of interest for me became how and why Sid
and Charity got together and stayed together. Charity took
control (which means Sid allowed her to) right from the
beginning. And since Sid didn't need a job, and really just
wanted to be a poet, why did Charity set out to change that?
And what was the attraction between the two couples? At
least in the beginning and perhaps until the end, wasn't
Charity "using" Larry and Sally as a shining example for
Sid? Is that friendship, or part of Charity's grand plan?
Then there's the control that polio exerted over Larry and
Sally's life. And Charity's attempt to fix that.
Lots of stuff for discussion and contemplation here, at
least for me. Barbara, I don't think this is as simple as
it first appears.
Adele in Columbus in what must be Indian Winter
=============== Reply 8 of Note 14 =================
To: PKHF06A ADELE STRATTON Date: 03/23
From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:29 PM
Are you new to CR? Welcome whether you are new or not.
I still think that Charity embodied her name, because I
don't think that she was using Larry and Sally. She came to
visit Sally before she knew anything about either one of
them. And she gave them things they needed without making
them feel guilty. I wonder if we would be questioning
Charity's motives if she were a man. It would be OK for a
man to direct his wife, but it is shocking to many people
for a woman to do the same thing. I think her urge to
control was like a prison to her. She couldn't stop even at
the end when she ended up suffering for her decision. What
a lovely book!! I thank Lee Levine for recommending it.
(But who is Lee Levine? Have I ever heard of this person?)
Jane in Colorado.
=============== Reply 9 of Note 14 =================
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 03/24
From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 1:14 AM
Barbara: You're not starting the CROSSING TO SAFETY go-
round early; since I've let myself get behind schedule I'm
happy to have some incentive to get caught up. I'm just
about halfway through CTS now and am finding it a good
read. I'll be back in a couple of days (I hope) with my
reactions; have already detected some similarities to
ANGLE OF REPOSE, I think.
I won't be able to give much time to discussing OPEN
SECRETS, but have put up a note with a few thoughts about
it elsewhere. Allen
=============== Reply 10 of Note 14 =================
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 03/24
From: PKHF06A ADELE STRATTON Time: 10:34 AM
I'm not new to CR; a constant lurker but a rare poster.
I've been around since CR's inception. But thanks for the
First, I'm not asserting that Charity was using Larry and
Sally, I'm just wondering. And, do we know for a fact that
Charity came to visit before she knew anything about either
of them? In that microcosmic university setting, and
knowing what we know about Charity, I think it's highly
unlikely that Charity knew nothing of them.
As to whether we would question a man with Charity's
characteristics, I'm not sure controlling is more commonly
associated with men. I do believe that men and women
control differently. Generally, women are much more subtle.
And I don't know that controlling is a bad thing, or if
it's right or wrong to control someone. I did not find
Charity shocking. Just darned intriguing.
One point that makes me question the whole friendship is
when Charity went into the deep depression after Sid did not
make tenure. Wouldn't a "normal" person (whatever that is!)
in these circumstances reach out to one's closest friends?
Larry and Sally heard about it second-hand, many months
after the fact. Why didn't Sid reach out to his friend
Larry at this time, even if Charity did not? Wasn't it
because Larry didn't know how to do much of anything without
Charity around to orchestrate things?
I certainly agree with you that her urge to control was like
a prison to her. One thing she couldn't control was her
urge to control! The teabag incident was especially
telling, and foreshadowed her inability to control her
death. Like master female controllers I've known in my
life, Charity was subtle and charming until pushed into a
corner. Then the scrappier side of the compulsion bared
My massive book list credits Dale Short with suggesting this
book many moons ago. I am indeed indebted. This one has
taken hold of me and will not let go soon.
Adele in Columbus,
Today is my 23rd anniversary. I've now been married more
than half my life--to the same guy!
=============== Reply 11 of Note 14 =================
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 03/24
From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 5:11 PM
Dick & All: I'm glad to see so many people enjoying CROSSING
TO SAFETY. I read it at the insistent urging of my
sister-in-law the English prof in Dearborn, and it
immediately became one of my all-time favorite novels.
I love CTS not only for the gorgeous, graceful writing,
but for a story I can relate to on many, many levels.
Being an extremely mild-mannered sort myself, who
apparently goes through daily life wearing a congenital
expression of tentativeness and confusion, I have all my
life been a veritable magnet for the Charitys of the world,
bless 'em. Sweet, well-meaning people to whom it never
occurs that they are not God's own social director, or that
anyone but them knows the "correct" way things should be
Charity is one of the most unforgettable characters in
fiction to me, a tremendously complicated and contradictory
person who combines the very best and worst humans are
capable of in the same personality.
The Camping Trip From Hell that Stegner describes had me
both laughing out loud and sorrowful at once, because I've
been on its equivalent many times before I wised up and
became a recluse.
The wonderfully-rendered faculty party where the two
couples first meet really hit home for me, as well. It's the
equivalent of falling in love, couple-wise. You're thinking,
"Wow! A soul mate! Where has this person been all my life?"
And then when the dew is off the rose you gradually
discover that your wonderful soul mate can also be weird as
hell, capable of amazing selfishness, cruelty, and
irrationality, and has at least 500 annoying habits that
drive you up the wall.
But by that point the relationship has taken on a life of
its own, as Barbara so eloquently points out, and you
realize you're in for the duration.
One of many memorable scenes for me is when Larry, the
morning during the terrible camping trip, comes upon Sid and
Charity naked in the woods, in the fog:
"One impression is inescapable. If there was ever a
dominant male, Sid is it. He is muscled like Michelangelo's
Adam anyway, but this morning he looks proud, sure of his
power, even arrogant. And Charity? Docile female, following
obediently, turning to pick berries from a bush he
designates as hers..."
A reminder of how incredibly complicated a marriage, any
marriage, is, and how impossible it is to judge from outside
what's really going on.
A rich, rich book, and the wisest on the subject of adult
friendships I've ever come across. I look forward to
following your conversation further.
Dale in Ala.
(PS: My sister-in-law sent me an article from a literary
magazine, an interview with the daughter of the "real"
Charity; apparently the book is very autobiographical in
that respect. The daughter said she was not offended at all
by Stegner's portrayal of her mother, and that if the truth
be known he "toned her down a good bit for the book." Is
that a scary thought, or what?)
=============== Reply 12 of Note 14 =================
To: PKHF06A ADELE STRATTON Date: 03/24
From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 9:04 PM
Finished CROSSING TO SAFETY today and I know I'm prone to
hyperbole after finishing a good book, but it truly may be
my favorite read this year.
Adele, I agree that this is not a simple book...made that
statement after the first half and it got far more complex
after that...which age and time seems to do to all
situations. However, I didn't really mean it in that way.
What I meant was that I wasn't looking for symbolism or
philosophical constructs as I read it. I was simply
enjoying exploring all the complexities of human behavior
and relationships. And, was doing it with characters that
I basically liked. Doing that reminded me how much I love
being in that situation.
Don't think I would have appreciated the depth of this
book as much if I had read it in my 20's. The whole
dynamic is so based on the interactions between couples and
how these four people and their relationships progress with
time. It was interesting that Stegner took two
people with some of the same emotional needs...Larry and
Charity...to be the male in one couple and the female in
the other. They expressed their needs in very different
ways, but it seems to me that Larry's absolutely focused
journey toward his goal was somewhat like Charity's,
though the need to control others certainly wasn't there.
This was a requirement after his parents died and he
married Sally, but I think Stegner made the point that this
was his behavior from the beginning. And, in many ways
Sally and Sid were similar...in fact, Sid would have
probably been very happy if he had been born female and
could have been in a more supportive role (viewed as more
acceptable for women in our culture)...even finding time to
pursue his varied interests. Almost every couple has an
interesting blend of these kinds of dynamics and when they
"click" with another couple, there needs to be this kind of
a sympathetic blend.
And, the whole character study of Charity over time is
fascinating. I don't think I can say anything about her
that is completely positive or negative...what a complex
character! We hear a lot about controlling personalities
these days, but psychology classes should be using this
book as a point of discussion. She did so much that was so
good and so much else that was so destructive, but it was
all done with the same motives, I thought. I really
thought that it was all done because she thought that
everyone would be better off in the long run. Loved
Stegner's image of her as the desert tortoise who went in a
straight line and doggedly after what she wanted...and the
image of her plotting everything by the compass.
And, what a complex relationship she had with Sid! I'm
still working some of that out in my head. Part of her
discounting of him had to do with him being a part of her
and, therefore, the one who had to sacrifice. Sally said
that late in the book when Larry said, "It's only Sid she's
willing to put out." And, Sally replied, after a "long
dark look. 'But, that's because he's so much herself.'".
As to Adele's question concerning why they were attracted
to each other in the first place, I think there were a lot
of factors that Stegner points out. First of all, Sid is
described as being very masculine and physically
attractive. Also, he was a malleable, intelligent man.
I'm sure a character like Charity would see him as someone
crying out for her direction in addition to her own
physical attraction to him. On Sid's side, Charity is also
described as stunning. And, I kept thinking about Sid's
awful relationship with his father...was there something
about it that made Charity attractive to him? Hmmm.
Did he really need as much direction as everyone implied
from the outset or was that just established after a
life-time habit of living with Charity? Barbara
=============== Reply 13 of Note 14 =================
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 03/24
From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 9:04 PM
A couple of more points...
Kept wondering what Charity would have been like in the
90's given her own outlet for achievement through her own
career, etc. It seems to me that she was the absolute
image of a lot of ambitious, high achieving women of that
time period who simply had no other outlet for their
energies other than their families. My ex-mother-in-law
was an architectural engineer who quit working the day she
got married at 24 and funneled all of that vast
intelligence into her house, husband and children. She was
dynamic, curious and vastly entertaining, but her children
could never get over their basic, paralyzing
shyness...there seemed to be some connection there.
And, one last point...there is an interaction between
Larry and Sally toward the end that sums up a lot of what
Stegner is saying, I think. When they are in Europe and
have just dropped off the workman with the injured hand,
"When you remember today, what will you remember best,
the spring countryside, and the company of friends, or
Piero's Christ and that workman with the mangled hand?"
She thought for a minute. "All of it," She said. "It
wouldn't be complete or real if you left out any part of
it, would it?"
"Go to the head of the class," I said.
Excellent summary of their lives, their relationship with
Sid and Charity...and the experience of Charity herself.
Sorry to go on and on. Can you tell I liked this book?!?
=============== Reply 16 of Note 14 =================
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 03/25
From: BKKD62C LEANORE LEVINE Time: 8:02 AM
I am Lee Levine... alive and well and living in Sarasota,
Florida.... also known as a lurker on this BB. Have been
enjoying all my CR friends for years. I just thought that
CTS had wonderful possibilities.
Am enjoying the discussion. Lee
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 03/26
From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:39 PM
Your quote made me think that Charity seemed docile and Sid
dominant because they were stripped (sorry, can't think of
another word) of the trappings of civilization. Larry was
saying that sometimes Sid was the strong one, I guess.
Larry also indicated that he liked sparring with Charity. I
found it interesting that Sid didn't take well criticism of
Charity. And Sid did rebel now and then. I loved his
childish throwing away of his cane. I also loved the abrupt
ending. Jane in chilly Colorado.
=============== Reply 3 of Note 6 =================
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 03/27
From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 12:14 PM
Jane: I think you're right, about the idyllic setting and
the escape from routine allowing Sid and Charity's role
reversal that Larry glimpses on the camping trip. In any
event, a beautiful, somehow primal image, I thought.
I recall that one of Larry's great pleasures in life was
trying to get Charity's goat in conversation. I was reminded
of them this week, while listening to a tape about the life
of Immanuel Kant. Among the many admirers of his work were
Hegel, Marx, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche--who, when they
gathered for conversation "would pay Kant their ultimate
homage, of vigorously disputing his ideas at great length."
Something CRs can identify with, I think.
Dale in vigorously disputed Ala.
=============== Reply 5 of Note 6 =================
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 03/28
From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 11:05 PM
First things first: next up on the reading list will be
another book that has already seen a fair amount of dis-
cussion here -- THE SHIPPING NEWS by Annie Proulx.
As to CROSSING TO SAFETY: From the start I was looking
out for any similarities to ANGLE OF REPOSE, and came up
with a few. Both are told by late-middle-aged narrators
looking backwards -- and both deal mostly with the first
few years in the marriages of their characters. And in
each case the narrator is mostly concerned with a
relationship other than his own marriage -- in CTS it's
that of Sid and Charity, in AOR the focus is on Lyman
Ward's grandparents. In each case the narrator recon-
structs dialogue of scenes from the past which he did
not witness, and calls attention to that fact. (That
Stegner deals in great detail with the beginning of
Sid and Charity's relationship and not at all (that I
recall, anyway) with the early days of Larry and
Sally's would seem to show pretty clearly who the import-
ant characters are. I imagine WS killed off the Morgan's
parents early in the game partly to simplify that side
of the story.) And both Sid and Charity's marriage and
that of Ward's grandparents have at their heart a deep
flaw, the discovery of which by the narrator is an
element crucial to the plot of each of these novels.
Of the two books, unlike the CRs who have so far ex-
pressed opinions on both I much prefer ANGLE OF REPOSE.
I consider AOR a far more varied and substantial work,
as much a portrait of the settling of the West as of
the lives of Lyman Ward's ancestors. It has the depth and
breadth one can lose oneself in, as contrasted with CTS's
pared-down study of the lives of its four characters.
CROSSING TO SAFETY held my attention well enough, it's just
that I far more enjoy the kind of novel that AOR is.
Late in the book, Larry Morgan is asked by Hallie to
write a book about her parents, and thinks in some detail
about the difficulties inherent in trying to do so. It
seems that Stegner is practically inviting the reader to
speculate on the extent to which CTS is autobiographical,
and to ask which elements are lifted from life and which
are invented -- and why. Knowing from other notes that
WS's wife was not confined to a wheelchair, I wondered why
he chose to have Sally stricken with polio. It seems to me
that this was a simple way to have a "balance of misfor-
tune", if you will, between the two couples. Take away
Sally's polio, and the Morgan's marriage is pretty much
hunky-dory: Larry gets his editor's job, goes on to
success as a writer, and all is bliss. With the tensions
between Sid and Charity, and her eventual death, this
simply won't do, so WS has to spread some suffering around
to even things out. I guess polio was an efficient means
toward this end; the advent of Sally's illness marks the
dividing line between the first and second phases of the
couples' friendship, and the specific choice of this
ailment also serves to anchor us in that historic era in a
way that, say, an auto accident would not. (The impact was
somewhat mitigated for me by the fact that I was waiting
for it to happen, since we know from very early on that
Sally is crippled. As soon as Larry refers to the "roof
falling in" on the camping trip I guessed that the time
was at hand.)
Just my two bytes worth.....
=============== Reply 6 of Note 6 =================
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 03/29
From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:52 PM
I very much like both novels. I, too, felt the similarity
in that WS covered a short period of time in the first half
of each novel and then leaped through decades during the
last half of each. I really felt the atmosphere much more
intensely in the first halves of each. I thought that WS
killed off Larry's parents and Sally's as well (I think)
because it gave them a reason to "fall for" Charity and Sid.
If you do not have close family, I think that you are often
looking for close relationships in your life. As our dear
gail would say, "They interrupted my life." Jane in
=============== Reply 1 of Note 5 =================
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 03/31
From: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Time: 12:38 PM
I am fascinated by the number of people who were
attracted to the relationship between the couples in CTS..
My sentiments were exactly the opposite.
I started out thinking that everyone was just a
little too "nice" and that the book was fairly pedestrian.
Then came the camping trip. Suddenly, Larry and Sally
found themselves caught in a web by this absolute ogre.
Try as I might, I can't manage to work up much
sympathy for Charity.
I liked the book, but more as a horror story than as
an idyl about friendship.
It's amazing to me that we all react so
differently to these characters.
--Jim in Oregon
=============== Reply 2 of Note 5 =================
To: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Date: 03/31
From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 8:13 PM
Reactions to characters do certainly differ, and although I
can understand how someone can describe Charity as an
"ogre," I didn't see her quite that way. The scene about
loading the pack horse and the missing (but actually there)
tea packet is a very telling scene about both Charity and
Sid. Both of them make it a test of wills, not just
Charity. And the later scene where Sid finds the original
pack of tea, shows it to Larry, then throws it in the fire
says a lot about Sid. He is a full participant in the drama
that he allows Charity to script for their marriage. The
facts of any contention are of no importance, only the
roles Charity and Sid play, and I repeat, Sid chooses his
role over and over again.
I think Barbara has a good point, about the lack of outlet
for Charity's titanic energy being the basis for her
domination of Sid. If Charity had a real job, she would
have left Sid much more alone. I'm not sure Sid would have
enjoyed that, either. There is a real symbiotic
relationship there, at one level. Going back to Charity's
underemployment, it would have been interesting to see
these characters without Sid's money to provide child care.
Mothering five children without help might have stemmed the
flood of energy which powered the marriage. The situation
then would have resembled more closely the marriage in
ANGLE OF REPOSE, although I can't imagine Charity ever
yielding to Sid, even if she were saddled with a dozen
As Stegner has Larry point out, the story in CTS is as much
about friendship as it is about marriage, though, and I was
fascinated by the interplay of the four characters and how
their friendships endured all sorts of stress and change.
They reached a balance between their differences and their
similarities; Larry didn't confront Charity as much during
the later years of the friendship as he did at first, for
Sid chose Charity for reasons that he probably didn't
understand, out of complementary strengths and weaknesses
that formed the structure of the their marriage. I don't
see the relationship as a horror story.
I was interested to see Dale's reference to Stegner's
sources for the story being somewhat autobiographical,
especially in light of the exchange between Hallie and
Larry about the problems of putting real people, your
friends to boot, into a book. Stegner seems to have drawn
on actual stories and actual people a good deal. AOR was
based on real letters from Mary Hallock Foote. How closely
an author works with real people and events is very
interesting to me. I remember a remark either by or about
Thomas Wolfe in this regard. He was described as not only
working with real people as his characters,
which arguably all authors do to some extent, but giving
their real names and telephone numbers. In LOOK HOMEWARD,
ANGEL, the twin brothers in the Gant family have the same
first names as Wolfe's real brothers, Benjamin Harrison and
Grover Cleveland. I seem to remember that Wolfe's family
was not thrilled at the close correspondences between the
Wolfes and the Gants.
(http://caladan.chattanooga.net/~dreedle) 3/31/96 8:03PM ET
=============== Reply 3 of Note 5 =================
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 04/01
From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 7:49 PM
Your note made me think of a couple of things that gave
me pause while I was reading CTS. That tea bag scene was
really a crucial one and I thought about it for a long time.
It seemed so likely that Sid would take that moment to say,
"See, I was right!", but instead he tosses those bags into
the fire and continues their fiction. Full participant in
the drama is a wonderful description. By using that,
Stegner pretty much defined their relationship.
And, in the beginning, I kept wondering who was taking
care of Charity's children until they finally described the
caregiver situation. I'm sure that money is what enabled
Charity to move her controlling personality to new
heighths. If she'd had some of the daily drudgery of
taking care of all those children and that house by
herself, it might have taken the edge off of all that
And, like you, I must say that I'm still fascinated by
the interplay of all those characters. Authors who can do
this well are at the top of my favorites list. Barb
I finished CTS this week and thought it was wonderful. Jane, I too am intrigued by the names of the females. In fact, I'm intrigued by many aspects of this book.
Charity is one of the most unforgettable characters in fiction to me, a tremendously complicated and contradictory person who combines the very best and worst humans are capable of in the same personality.
Dale in Ala.
...I was fascinated by the interplay of the four characters and how their friendships endured all sorts of stress and change. They reached a balance between their differences and their similarities.