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October Light

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  750 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. New Directions is excited to reissue the Gardner classics, beginning with October Light, a complex relationship rendered in a down-to-earth narrative.

October Light is one of John Gardner's masterworks. The penniless widow of a once-wealthy dentist, Sally Abbot now lives in the Vermont farmhouse of her older brother, 72-yea
Paperback, 440 pages
Published October 27th 2005 by New Directions (first published November 12th 1976)
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Apr 11, 2011 Mariel rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: libras who like pizza and the color royal purple
Recommended to Mariel by: Robert Beveridge
Brother versus sister. James is in his '70s in the 1970s (have I ever shared my theory about guys who were hot in the '70s? The theory is that they are not hot any longer. D'oh! I'm trying to be a sane goodreader now). Sally has run out of money in her eighties (she'd be rich again in the '80s if she took the drug dealing tips from her trash novel)and is forced to move in with her miserly, life-hating brother. His hole forces her into her own hole inside his hole (er, house). Partly out of fear ...more
Jul 26, 2009 H added it
Shelves: fiction-novel
From the start this is clearly the novel of a man actively striving after masterpieces. Each word is so perfectly chosen, it's unbelievable, and despite its length, the writing is so full of integrity that the reader can't possibly question or wonder if this could have been anything shorter than a 440 page book.

But it's a daunting read, like Paradise Lost was, and like most college classes are in the sense that the author assumes you are going to devote your whole being to participating in this
This book was absolutely painful to read. There is simply too much truth in in for me to take in at one time. I had to put it down for days at a time while i digested and processed my feelings. Alongside Sunlight Dialogues and Grendal it is one of the most amazing and affecting novels I have ever read. The metadrama is absolutley central to the story. It stands alone as fiction and gives us a searing look into the subconscious of the two protagonists. Gardner is a literary genius, so completely ...more
Matt Holloway
The opening scene justifies every book I've ever read.
Sep 19, 2008 j_ay rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
A re-read. great to have this book back in print.
Gardner is ridiculously under-appreciated.
Cynthia Frazer
Was absolutely struck by this novel in my youth, rereading it now I am struck again.
As the novel opens, 72 year old James Page has just shot his sister's television. Sally Abbot, his penniless widowed sister, has returned home to the Vermont farmhouse in which she and James grew up. The two are polar opposites in nearly every way and beome engaged in a bitter battle of idealogy. James locks Sally in her bedroom, where she begins to read a trashy novel about drug smugglers, spaceships, and philosophy. This novel within the novel is a springboard to provide glimpses into the fami ...more
this book was a challenge. I will admit I certainly started skimming paragraphs along the way. the "book within the book" was interesting until it jumped the shark and I completely lost interest in its story whatsoever. it was a clever trick... although I didn't understand the point of the missing pages.. other than perhaps the author was just as sick of that tale as I was and this was a way to skip ahead.!

however the tale of James and sally is deeply personal. the insightfulness., stubborness,
Usually I would rate a book I was unable to finish with 1 star but I am making an exception in this case. It is obviously a well written book with enough themes to keep a high school english class or intellectual book club busy arguing and analyzing for weeks. The two elderly, stubbborn, Vermont siblings represent exteme opposites in terms of political and social viewpoints and there are many supporting cast members to represent the range in between. Like most good stories - there is a dysfuncti ...more
I read this book so many years ago. I do not even barely remember it. I just remember I was obsessed with it and could not put it down. It has two stories throughout. A story within a story. That got in my way when I first started reading it. So I put it down. But, like so many books, I picked it up again and for some reason sailed right though it. It was gorgeously written. John Gardner was a phenomenal writer. I highly recommend this book. One of my absolute all-time favorites.
Justin Mitchell
I love John Gardner's writing- he is challenging without being gimmicky, profound without being pretentious, thorough without being boring, and approaches every moment of his work with the utmost integrity. While this one didn't dethrone The Sunlight Dialogues as my favorite of his, and one of my favorites period, it was still a great, engaging, and satisfying read by a much-overlooked writer.
Jenny D
It may just be because I'm a Vermonter, but I loved every second of this book. I know those people; I know stubborn old farmers and stubborn old women that say jeezem'crow all the time. I was a fan of John Gardner before, but after reading this I was in the clouds in love with his writing. Such precision, imagery and insight into humanity!
Christian Schwoerke
I enjoyed this book in the 70’s and I enjoyed it again this time around, in April 2014. This time I better appreciated the story of James Sage and gave a little less weight to the embedded “trashy” novel. Formerly, I’d reversed those valuations, though even in my callow 20s I recognized how extraordinary were Gardner’s evocations of 72-year-old James Page and 80-year-old Sally Page. In fact, all of the “real” characters in the novel had fairly rich interior lives that were revelatory and credibl ...more
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I first read October Light back in 1977 or thereabouts, shortly after its release. I recalled the very basics of the plot, and that I loved it. That's about it. So reading it again some 36 years later is like reading it anew, experiencing and enjoying it all over again. Ah, the beauty of poor long-term memory.

October Light is the sort of character-driven, philosophical and deeply moralistic tale so typical of the best of Gardner's work. And while there is always a redemptive element, there is so
Kristen Barr
This is one of the funniest books I have ever read. I read it when it first came out and have read it many times since. The characterization, the absurdity of the situation, and the book-within-a book are tightly woven together to present a unique portrait of the human condition.
I had some trouble getting into this one, but once I did it was quite profound. The writing was excellent and it had some deep and important themes. To me it was about the struggle with change and the need to be tolerant, understanding, and forgiving of others. This theme was apparent in the story, but I think was also indicative of a deeper need for this in our society. I felt at times like this book was very deep and I was missing the point, but it was clear the author was making fun of some o ...more
Stephen Weinberger
I first read Gardner's "Grendel" in high school soon after finishing Beowulf. It was a dark, grotesque, strange, enthralling book that still lingers and causes a mental spasm when I see the cover on my bookshelf. Years later I found Nickel Mountain with its cast of doomed but humane characters in the Catskills of NY. Now, I was able to pick up October Light. Once again, I am struck by his ability to depict flawed but compassionate people (in Vermont this time) while capturing a natural landscape ...more
Another book I want to re-read. I was mesmerized by it on the first reading, but can't remember much of what's described in the Goodread plot summary. But it made me understand why John Gardner is spoken of with such reverence.
Wendy Joyce
Ever read a book that started you wondering, "Why the heck am I reading this?" and yet, you keep reading it, page after page, not really liking it, but not knowing why, and not able to stop?

I suppose I was waiting for the story to "get" somewhere...somewhere, anywhere, just get there soon. The characters, well-drawn, (as always with Gardner), come to life, but not in a likeable way. They're more like your aunts, uncles, and cousins that cause migraines when they visit. (You love them, but don't
That Gardner was brilliant and actually practiced what he really preached was not a surprise to me as a BIG fan of his books on writing. What amazed me, besides the quality of his metaphors, his scheme, was the joy and fun I had in reading it, and I think he had in writing it. A book of living people, so much that after I got off the bus having just finished it, I expected to see James Page. Gardner gives and gives with all he has. Read it. As customary as it is to add some small slap after such ...more
Jun 06, 2012 Debbie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: looking for a new classic/
Recommended to Debbie by: dan from torah study
aClassic by John Gardner who I never read, and was killed when the head of our writing dept at SUNY binghamton
Two elderly siblings are forced to live together for economical reasons. The brother is old fashioned and close minded . the first thing that happens is he shoots the tv because of the liberal ideas its spewing.Then he chases her up the stairs with a weapon and locks her in. She decides she won't come out.Their stalemate is the story. The book seems dated, yet ahead of its time. Another
Elizabeth Wood
A bit of a struggle - but worth it in the end.
Oct 11, 2012 Julie added it
Shelves: gave-up-on
I normally like odd, book-within-a-book novels. This one is set in New England with characters who seem very familiar. I just could not get into it. I think, for me, the actual characters weren't close enough, and the characters in the novel were not compelling or immediate enough. Too much distance between me and the characters to generate any kind of connection. I tried...
As a longtime fan of Gardner's work, I had not gotten around to reading this one. I can't believe it won a National Book Award. I gave it two stars because the writing was lovely in fits and starts and the characters were well drawn. Beyond that, I found the book tedious and had a very hard time finishing it. Probably wouldn't have but for book club.
Kristina Cinato
The author does an exceptional job of developing characters and invoking sympathy for them when they should be unlikeable. Even more, he is able to get the reader to understand, if not sympathize with, BOTH philosophically juxtaposed main characters. The story is slow, but so well crafted and beautifully scripted that it is worth the time.
Jacob Andra
I made it about half way. The writing is great, but I felt that the novel-within-a-novel bogged the whole thing down. The trashy novel wasn't: it was clearly in Gardner's voice and was his best attempt at writing trashy. Maybe later, I'll try to pick it up again.
Matt Gaither
Probably my favorite Gardner novel thus far. Very little action to speak of so if that's what you're after steer clear. Gardner explores an odd relationship between two elderly siblings, threads in a second narrative, and generally rules.
Al Canary
Picked up for $1.99 (special) on Kindle & am currently at 42%. (Am convinced that this is a loss-leader from Kindle, trying to re-introduce a new generation to this Author.) More later!

Just an OK
one of my favorite opening scenes of all time. a book of light and apples, stubborn siblings and wild dignity. maybe what i fell in love with was the sort of old person i would not mind being...
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John Champlin Gardner was a well-known and controversial American novelist and university professor, best known for his novel Grendel, a retelling of the Beowulf myth.

Gardner was born in Batavia, New York. His father was a lay preacher and dairy farmer, and his mother taught English at a local school. Both parents were fond of Shakespeare and often recited literature together. As a child, Gardner
More about John Gardner...
Grendel The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers On Becoming a Novelist The Sunlight Dialogues Nickel Mountain

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