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All the Little Live Things

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  1,949 ratings  ·  242 reviews
Joe Allston, the retired literary agent of Stegner's National Book Award-winning novel, The Spectator Bird, returns in this disquieting and keenly observed novel. Scarred by the senseless death of their son and baffled by the engulfing chaos of the 1960s, Allston and his wife, Ruth, have left the coast for a California retreat. And although their new home looks like Eden, ...more
Kindle Edition, 354 pages
Published (first published 1967)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Wallace Stegner was a very meditative writer. This, I think, is why some people have a hard time getting through his books. There's a lot of rumination on the part of the characters, while the plot sits on the back burner. With some authors this drives me crazy, but with Stegner I somehow have the patience to stay with the writing and savor it. I think it's because he articulated so many truths and feelings I've personally experienced. He handled difficult themes in such a soft way, with the per ...more
While I have loved all of Stegner's novels I've read so far (Angle of Repose, Crossing to Safety, Spectator Bird), this one seems a little bit dated. In this companion to Spectator Bird, almost 70 Joe Allston rants and raves about the hippie barbarians doing their thing on a bit of his property in 1967 Los Altos Hills/Woodside. I kind of wish I had read this in 1967 when it was published, and I was still at Stanford, and Stegner was still in the nearby hills. I have no idea how autobiographical ...more
Some stories are pure entertainment. Some are built for other purposes, as with Wallace Stegnar’s, All The Live Little Things. There was not much that I found entertaining, but if I measure the story by it’s impact on me, by it’s provocative nature and wide open doorway to self-reflection, then it was a fabulous piece of writing.

My feelings about the book were hard won. I found the beginning slow going, the writing a bit dated and the whole experience laborious. I had trouble relating to the cha
Much of the first half of the book is typical story setup: introduction of characters, setting the scene, and the like, which is fine, although it's dragged out here with the focus on squatter Jim Peck (technically, he has Joe's grudging permission to stay on the property). As the hippie-ish young man makes himself gradually into a more permanent fixture, than just pitching tent, Joe's level of resentment grows ... as did my fatigue. Second half of the story contains flashbacks to Joe's past, th ...more
One of my favorite books of all time is Stegner's CROSSING TO SAFETY--it was a very profound story of the transformational potential of friendship. This book also explored that theme, but from such a painful perspective that I suffered as I read.

Stegner's writing is beautiful, but the anger and social prejudice expressed in this novel did not appeal to me. I believe that he was an English professor at Stanford in the late 60's when this book was written. I can only imagine that as he anticipated
“All The Little Live Things” is a title that connotes for me sprightliness, energy, and the promise of goodness. It was none of these things. It was, in fact, a very painful book to read, and were it not for the beauty of Stegner’s prose, I might have given it up. It is not a book to read when one is feeling wretched and vulnerable.

Written in 1967, it preceded The Spectator Bird (1976), winner of the 1977 National Book Award, which continued the story of Joe and Ruth Allston who lost their son,
Daniel Kerr
I just finished the book 30 minutes ago and it ends up as quite a beating. I would call it overwrought and too sentimental in tone, and unconvincing in the pace of the development of Marian and Joe’s relationship. The underlying philosophies at work I won't attempt to unpack at the moment but I don’t see much hope in any of it. Probably not by coincidence, the author somewhat successfully creates in the reader what Allston experienced himself – the anticipation of pain and the experience of it a ...more
Erik Dabel
Powerful, powerful book. A book that, when you finish, you can do nothing but sit back and contemplate what matters in life. No, that's not quite right. You contemplate why everything matters in life. The good and the bad, the controllable and uncontrollable, the mundane and the life ending. Every little thing, no matter how insignificant or utterly destructive, must happen the way it happens. To turn your head away would be to ignore life itself.
This one was hard to read because Stegner lets you know, in the first few pages, that it will be sad, and it's heavy on introspection. The narrator/main character is lovable and infuriating, funny but unwilling to bend or change. He figures things out the hard way. I wept through the final chapters.
Another of my favorites, i try to reread once a year, about hope and despair, about strength, about love. I recently re-read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and this book. They seem like they belong together, Pilgrim about learning to see all that is around you, from insects to trees to skies; and Little Live Things about people who are seeing and loving the natural world around them, but have tragedy and loss overwhelming them. A baby I know was recently in a car accident with brain damage and I am so ...more
Stegner is a master craftsman. I have read Crossing to Safety and Angel of Repose and fell in love with his prose. This particular book came as a recommendation from a friend who lived during the turbulent era of the late 60s as a new professor on college campus in the Midwest The book captures in the dialogue of the main characters the ideological tensions of that era. However, this is also a powerful book about human connection, sacrifice, self absorption, and significant loss as it explores t ...more
Angie Palau
If I complained that my last read lacked character development ("Foundation"), this book is the antidote. It is nearly ALL character development - peering inside the head of curmudgeonly old Joe Allston. He's not always likeable, but he's always entertaining in his crotchety, clever honesty.

It's a beautifully written, vividly descriptive tale - so much so that I can smell and taste and feel that summer in California in the 60s. I'm always amazed when authors can use words to paint a tangible pic
S.E. Flynn
One of the best insider-views of marriage I've read, from the point of view of a husband who is aware, awake, and lives with a strong connection to the values he has chosen to govern his life. What really strikes me is the authenticity of his relationship with his wife- sometimes he feels distant, sometimes close, but almost always she evokes a response or feeling in him with her commentary and observations. For me, it captures the wonderfully weird experience of being connected to another human ...more
This was such a tender, thoughtful book, about a late-middle aged suburban couple retiring from the world in into the Bay Area countryside, and encountering a trespassing hippie couple who troubles their retreat. Beautifully written, honest and without melodrama, considering the issues of the sixties as only a novel can. I found I preferred this contemporary West to his historical works--belongs on the shelf with Updike and Bellow as well as Kesey.
Mar 07, 2013 Lobstergirl rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Rand Paul
Shelves: fiction, got-rid-of

Stegner writes well, but the subject matter - a California retiree clashing with the hippie he allows to squat on his property, hippie culture and free love, and the retiree and his wife's friendship with a young couple affected by cancer, did not appeal to me. I felt trapped in the 60s and it was not pleasant.
The title implies that the book will be happy and light and maybe give the peace and joy that Joe and his wife, Ruth are seeking when they move to California. They are dealing with the death (and apparent suicide) of their son and hope to find peace in the countryside. Instead, they- or at least he- finds aggravation and more sorrow, but they also get the chance to love someone truly special in the character of Marian. As I read, I was so frustrated that only Joe and me seemed to think it was NO ...more
"All the Little Live Things" is the second Stegner novel that I have read, and it is just as beautifully written and poignantly thought provoking as the last. I love how Stegner’s style and his characters make me think about my own life and point of view. For me this book was a real enjoyment. The story centers on Joe Allston and his wife Ruth who have recently retired to a country house in Northern California. Their retirement, however, is not just meant to be an escape from their careers but a ...more
Zoe Jussel
Again, Wallace Stegner has done it for me, in this intimate novel of life, death, nature, accepting and learning. There is always so much of the author in his books, which I enjoy. Revolving around an elderly couple's relationship and deep abiding friendship with a younger couple who have moved to nearby land, as neighbors. Cranky Joe and his kind wife, Ruth, befriend the young couple and become almost the parents they didn't have. Each teaching the other what goes around and around in this big ...more
Ed Vaughn
Stegner was a wonderful writer. I read "Angle of Repose" years ago so I grabbed this up. This a sequel to his award winning "The Spectator Bird"(which I have yet to read.) His protagonist is Joe Allston, retired and living with his wife on their ranchette in Central California. his adversary is a hippie squatter that has smooth talked his way into living in the woods on Allston's land. Allston is the angry parent (as Holden Caulfield is Salinger's angry youth) and the hippie reminds him of his o ...more
I have decided that many of Stegner's books have seemingly sweet, light titles, but when you open the book, there is so much complexity and heaviness that the titles seem unmatched with the story, not exactly, but kind of. I think I would actually give this book 3 1/2 stars, and if he had left out the crazy hippie side characters, I might even give it five because it was so beautiful and endearing on other levels. I am still impressed with his ability to write about and understand people and how ...more
L.V. Sage
Just finished this novel last night. Wow! An all-encompassing emotional ride from beginning to end, this story pulls you into the small, intimate world of a few key characters. Joe and Ruth are keen to live a relatively sheltered retirement in a small, rural Northern California town where they can nap, bird watch and take long walks. Enter Jim Peck, a young, hedonistic demi-God who wears a wild beard, unkempt hair and flashing eyes. After convincing Joe to let him camp on the land, a succession ...more
Steve Smits
This novel is a sequel to The Spectator Bird. Joe and Ruth Allston have returned to California from abroad, trying to find and achieve some measure of contentment in a rhythm of retired life. Joe is still deeply affected by the death of his son and in this book we find out more about his wayward son and Joe’s difficult relationship with him.

Into their lives come several neighbors about whom Joe has strong feelings that tell us much about his state of mind and about the complex relationships acr
I love Wallace Stegner and I enjoyed this book but it's started to sound very "dated" now. There's a great deal of chaos in the late 1960's and Joe Allston (who also appeared in The Spectator Bird) is having trouble keeping up with and understanding the societal changes. He comes off as a bit of a curmudgeon and isn't entirely likeable. But Stegner is a marvelous writer and has a keen understanding of the human condition. This is certainly worth reading.
Loved this book. No one explores the beautiful and tragic in life like Stegner. The book is worth reading for the imagery alone, but it also brings to life one of the most memorable characters in recent memory--Marian. She will haunt for days to come. I am still grappling with the purpose of the scene on the bridge at the end, however the book left me with a new appreciation for every little live thing in my own world.
I kind of wish I hadn't read this because parts of the story haunt me. Stegner is a terrific writer, but this was not my favorite of his novels. It is impossible to read a book set in the late 1960s/early 1970s, no matter how well written or sharply observed it is, without cringing a bit at the dated-ness. That isn't Stegner's fault, and his character Joe's perspective on the counter-culture is fascinating.
Rena Sherwood
Incredibly weird and has a pretty sick ending. Still, I wish I could write like Stenger.
Claire Fuller
Oh Wallace. I wanted to love All the Little Live Things (isn't that one of the best titles?), and there were moments when I did - the beginning, and the end: when there was Wallace's amazing descriptions of landscape and nature, and when things happened - when we escaped from the inside of Joe's brain. Yes, I think it was Joe's brain which was the problem for me, and how much it was switched onto repeat. Joe didn't like his hippie tenant, but he did like his sweet and beautiful neighbour. Wallac ...more
Very intense. I feel quite shell-shocked by the ending. But a beautiful book. This is my first Stegner; I will for sure read more.
M.T. Karthik
Man, this guy was a big, tough, gutsy writer. I had never read this one and came across a first edition copy which just felt in my hands like I was reading at the end of the 1960's/dawn of the 70's when the cray dream of the new age was just coming crashing down. I was only one year old when this book came out of course, but my readings of history and my experiences in the United States and particularly in California made this an almost historio-nostalgic experience - I longed for a California t ...more
Joe Alston is a retired literary critic and what we enter into through his eyes is a very intelligent rejection of the world. Look up Sunset Limited with Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel Jackson written by Cormac McCarthy. Joe is very similar to Tommy Lee Jones character but more intelligent and nuanced. He and his wife have retired to a beautiful spot in California. Life is very quiet and lovely, but everywhere there is evil at work. Underground the gophers eat away at the roots of their flowers and ...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...
Angle of Repose Crossing to Safety The Big Rock Candy Mountain The Spectator Bird Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West

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“It is the beginning of wisdom when you recognize that the best you can do is choose which rules you want to live by, and it's persistent and aggravated imbecility to pretend you can live without any.” 64 likes
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