All the Little Live Things (Contemporary American Fiction)

All the Little Live Things - Wallace Stegner Because its issues mix the deeply (at times awkwardly) personal into a broader generational view, All the Little Live Things is a novel that has revealed to this reader widely different messages at different times. In my twenties I enjoyed the anger toward the rootless hippy culture of the 1960's: Alston's rage against Peck, who stood as a symbol to his failed relationship with his own son, the dangerously untethered Curtis. In my thirties, I was drawn to Marian Catlin's thirst for feeling -- and the irony in her imbalance between life and death, a recurring theme for Wallace Stegner. Reading this now for the first time in my forties, it's Joe Alston's regret I find most compelling. His quickness to anger, and awareness of its origin as much as its futility. My seventh time with this novel, I found Alston pitiable, deeply flawed, and brilliant but often, to his own mind, emotionally afloat. For whatever reason, this book offers this reader unique rewards with every telling. The reasons are no doubt personal, but finding such a book -- one whose life within my readings is as definite and personal as another person would be -- seems the rare gift of literature, and a unique joy of the mind -- whose transience and impermanence its author knew all too well.