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Remembering Laughter

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  701 ratings  ·  119 reviews
''Remembering Laughter'' marked Wallace Stegner's brilliant literary debut. Margaret Stuart, the proud wife of a prosperous Iowa farmer, sets high standards for herself and others. Happy in her marriage, she tries to look the other way when her genial husband, Alec, takes to the bottle. When Elspeth, Margaret's sister, comes to live with them, the young woman is immediatel ...more
Audio CD, 3 pages
Published July 1st 2011 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1937)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,243)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This novelette is a brief and powerful illustration of the destructive power of marital infidelity and unforgiveness. The hurt and guilt run so deep that they dam the flow of communication, and laughter becomes only a memory. It's chastely told, as was the custom back when people were content to use their imaginations regarding matters of intimacy. The text is sorrowful yet beautiful, evoking scenes of Iowa farm life through the seasons. All the literary gifts we associate with Wallace Stegner a ...more
Ed
Boom! The electrical power snapped off. A transformer outside of our neighborhood had blown. We'd be awhile with no juice. So, by a lantern I read REMEMBERING LAUGHTER, my first Wallace Stegner title (his own debut). It was masterful and reminded me of Willa Cather with its agrarian Midwest setting and Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome in its themes of repressed emotions. Mr. Stegner, his widow recounts in this edition, wrote RL as a novella entered in a contest which he won. I'm going to try his late ...more
Heidi
I used Peter Senge’s “ask why five times” tool to get to the root cause of what goes wrong for the people in this novel.

Why is Margaret such a martyr? Why does her sister Elspeth choose the “self-immolation” of guilt that ruins her life? Why, in spite of a seemingly good relationship, has Alec never seen his wife naked? Why does he drink? Why do they all lack the courage to make things right, if not for themselves then for the boy? (Alec tries, but mouses around in secret.)

The answers all ring
...more
Ivan
"Throughout the latter part of the morning buggies kept turning in from the highway and wheeling up the quarter-mile of elm-arched drive to the farm -- surreys and democrat wagons, an occasional brougham, an even more occasional automobile whose brass caught the sunlight between the elms." So begins the arrival of funeral guests. And what follows is a truly heartbreaking novella of death, both literal and figurative. But primarily, the death of all that makes life worth living...caused by a refu ...more
Tim
Wallace Stegner had only a couple short stories on his resume when he won a Little, Brown novella prize, earning $2,500 and the publication of "Remembering Laughter" in 1937. Thus began a magnificent career for this teacher and chronicler of the West.

"Remembering Laughter," though brief and telling a very simple story, is no mere footnote, is not an afterthought for the completist who loved novels such as "All the Little Live Things" or the Pulitzer-winning "Angle of Repose" (my favorites). It i
...more
Kerri Stebbins
Mar 10, 2012 Kerri Stebbins rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one.
Being a big fan of words, I never particularly enjoy using mine to blast someone else's creative attempts, but I would be lying to say I felt anything but consistent loathing for this book and Stegner's telling vs. showing storytelling. The premise of the story was unoriginal and telegraphed from page two, but I kept reading, thinking Stegner was going to redeem his story, hoping he was going to allow his characters some semblance of redemption. Alas, no, on both accounts. The three protagonists ...more
Joell
Stegner stories are like a favorite sweater, kind of worn, but comfy and comforting and wonderful. This is an early novella by the author, well, he had already written Big Rock Candy Mountain. The story is full of Stegner-ish characters, strong, quiet, flawed and fully human and the landscape is unforgiving but beautiful. But it was the afterward by his wife, Mary that really got me. She told the story of him writing it while teaching in Utah and getting a prize and a giant check ($2500) for the ...more
Mark
For the first time in years (probably about eight of 'em, to be precise), I picked up a book and read the entire thing in one day. Hell, it's been years since I've been able to do that with a magazine article...

Remembering Laughter is Wallace Stegner's first published work and I found it to be fabulous. This is not so much a story about an affair and the breaking of trust between a husband and wife (as well as the breaking of trust between two sisters) as it is a story about balancing freedom wi
...more
Kysha
Not as great as his later works, though his writing is excellent. The story is sad and not very complex. A short and easy read.

The thing I enjoyed most about this was the afterward, written by Stegner's wife, describing their early married life and his efforts to become a writer. She explains how Stenger got the inspiration for this novella, entered it into a contest and won. In celebration, they threw a party with their other young literary-minded friends and that very night she ended up givin
...more
Jay
Maintains a heavy atmosphere throughout. In ways, it felt like a simpler version of Smiley's "A Thousand Acres", overwhelming weight tied to the loneliness of the farm. The story was not as complex as Smiley's. Another review mentioned the colors being drawn out of the characters, and that was true, you end up in a gray world. The "afterwards" could have been much more compelling if more lengthy. Overall, the writing was great to listen to, the mood was depressing, and the story was OK but not g ...more
Sunni
Stegner's first book publication, this little novella shares much of the lovely plains farm setting with Willa Cather and much of the plot with Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome"(and, by my estimation anyway, no story gets more depressing and ironic than that one). So Stegner is in good company, but even with all of the gorgeous description of the farm and the commentary on the destructive forces of lust, unforgiveness, spite, etc., overall it felt a bit disappointing. While I loved the language, the ...more
Jaime
Building, slow, inevitable, and Iowa farms. Secrets and prisons of our own making. (Oh, be careful with your hearts.)

Do what you have to to be happy in this life, my children. There is so much beauty. - Francesca from Bridges of Madison County

Ann
This is Stegner's first - a novellette. It had good descriptive language, a bit of human drama, and left me with some things to think about. This was for a bookclub and was a nice short read.
Andrea Sachs
I think Wallace Stegner was one of our really great writers, and I'm glad I can go back a re-read his books, but so sorry there won't be any new ones.
Sharon
This was an interesting story. Not at all what I thought it would be like.

It was very real, no made up happy endings for some very real life situations. Because it followed a written formula that kept more to the side of real life, it made you smile when a smile was prompted, shed a tear at the the appropriate moment and feel anger and frustration just as you would if the characters had been an extension of yourself.

All that being said, I still expected a different ending. How refreshing, that
...more
Northpapers
Stegner's first novel does what a good first novel should do: it reveals the aims and suggests the approach of its author.

It is a good, rich work in its own right, I think, although this conclusion may be colored by the fact that his later work makes him an author who holds a unique appeal to me. I can't help seeing this book in his other work, and his other work in this early piece. But that's an idea he addresses fully too. I think he would welcome that reading.

Stegner approaches the lives o
...more
Elva
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mickey Reed
See full review here!

I received this through Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewer Program. Here is my honest review:

Wow, what a sad book. Remembering Laughter is a good title for this, because without remembering the fun times in this novel, it's hard to get through. I don't mean that this is a bad novella, because it's not. It's written extremely well (minus the use of a couple words too many times), and it's an interesting view of a pretty messed up family. But it's very depressing. It's a sa
...more
Rick
This novella was Stegner’s first. A tragic story of infidelity and its consequences on a husband, wife, the wife’s sister, and the child of the infidelity. It’s a spare story of repressed feelings, unspoken regret and condemnation. It features Stegner’s sinewy prose, his understated compassion, and his love of the western landscape in all its harsh beauty. When Elspeth McCleod arrives from Scotland to join her sister on the ranch owned by her sister’s husband there is a brief season of laughter. ...more
Mary
I was able to read this entire book in about 2 hours while we drove from Atlanta, GA to our vacation in Naples, FL. It started out very promising by establishing the tension between the wife and husband. Then the wife's younger sister arrived from Ireland to live with the couple and the trouble started. The husband was attracted to the younger sister and eventually, after much angst on the part of the younger sister (not much from the husband), the two sleep together. As you would guess, the wif ...more
Margaret
After reading that some reviewers considered this book by Wallace Stegner to lean towards "chick lit" I was a little apprehensive particularity that I considered chick lit shallow and leaning towards a soap opera. I am happy to say that this was not my experience, I think people jump to the assumption that any book written from the viewpoint of a woman qualifies as chick lit, I beg to differ. The writing was honest, introspective but from a more literary aspect than you would ever find in a chic ...more
Connie
Alec Stuart and his wife Margaret invited her younger sister Elspeth to live in their home in Iowa. Margaret was a very proper fashionable woman who got upset by her husband's drinking. Their prosperous farm was owned by Alec who loved to joke and tell stories. Elspeth was a lively young woman with a sense of fun. As the months wore on, the feelings between Alec and his wife's sister grew into a strong attraction. A chill decended upon their lives after this love triangle was discovered. It was ...more
Patricia
I didn't know until I read the blurb at the end of this book, written by Stegner's wife, that this was his first submitted piece--a novella that won the contest and $2500 for him 'way back when. Nice. Boy, he sure can write!!! What a complex web of emotions and characters he has woven here. Not a happy story, by any means, but excellent.
Deyanne
Not my favorite Stegner. Story line was depressing...definitely ironic title because the people were so shut-down and guilt ridden that laughter was a long forgotten happening. Convincing portrayal of hopelessness and the impact of choice. I believe this was his first major novel. Listened to it and was eager for the pain to end.
Julia
I really like Wallace Stegner and his style. This book was splendidly written, as I might expect from him. However, I didn't really like how he handled the female characters, the two sisters -- it was like he was casting judgement both on their sin, and then on their inability to recover from it. It seemed unfair, somehow.
Kay

How much we owe this novelette- Stegner’s first published writing. It was written when he was only 28 years old. He entered it in the Little, Brown novelette contest and won, his widowed wife explains in the afterword to this republication of this book. This gave him the impetus and confidence to keep writing. Thank you. It is amazing a 28 year old could have the insight he does into the effects of infidelity in marriage. It set the stage for his brilliant career, evidently, because whatever els
...more
Craig
Stegner-lite. The author is not in his best form. The plot features two sisters from Scotland separated in age by seven years. The older sister Margaret (29), who arrived years before in America, is married to a prosperous farmer and the younger sister Else (22) has come to live with her. A spate of events occurring shortly after Else arrives creates an implacable rift between the sisters which lasts for 18 years, although they continue to live in the same house. During that time they are non-co ...more
Jody
This was a short (160 p.) story that has been republished after 75 years. It is a heart-wrenching story of a farm couple living in Iowa. The wife's sister comes from Scotland to live with them, and their lives are never the same. A sad, quick read.
KarmA1966
Another book that deserves a 4.5. No tricks. No bullshit irony. Just a perfect little story about repressed love, the stranglehold of cultural mores, and familial bonds shredded to a single thread. Brilliant.
Lisa
This is not my favorite of Stegners writings, possibly because of the haunting, heartbreaking nature of the narrative. It is beautiful. He draws you in and you feel the raw emotions. It stayed with me for some time. (Only 150 pages)

This was Stegner's first novella having previously only published two stories. Published while he was a young English instructor at the University of Utah. (The story of receiving news of the publishing and the astonishing sum he would be paid $2,500 and the commencem
...more
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Wallace Earle Stegner (February 18, 1909—April 13, 1993) was an American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist. Some call him "The Dean of Western Writers."
More about Wallace Stegner...
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