The Spectator Bird Audiobook | Wallace Stegner | Audible.com
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The Spectator Bird | [Wallace Stegner]

The Spectator Bird

Joe Allston is a retired literary agent who is, in his own words, "killing time before time gets around to killing me." His parents and his only son are long dead, leaving him with neither ancestors nor descendants, tradition nor ties. His job, trafficking the talent of others, had not been his choice. He passes through life as a spectator. But a postcard from a friend causes him to return to the journals of a trip he had taken years before.
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Publisher's Summary

Joe Allston is a retired literary agent who is, in his own words, "killing time before time gets around to killing me." His parents and his only son are long dead, leaving him with neither ancestors nor descendants, tradition nor ties. His job, trafficking the talent of others, had not been his choice. He passes through life as a spectator. But a postcard from a friend causes him to return to the journals of a trip he had taken years before. The memories of that trip to his mother's birthplace move through layers of time and meaning, and reveal that Joe Allston isn't quite spectator enough.

©1976 Wallace Stegner; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • National Book Award Winner, 1976

"Elegant and entertaining. . . .Every scene is adroitly staged and each effect precisely accomplished." (The Atlantic)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (114 )
5 star
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4.0 (84 )
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Story
4.4 (82 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Alan Tripp San Francisco, CA 11-25-09
    Alan Tripp San Francisco, CA 11-25-09 Listener Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "outstanding narration"

    The narration was great; book was very engrossing, but denouement a bit disappointing for me.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joyce Monterey, MA, United States 09-15-13
    Joyce Monterey, MA, United States 09-15-13 Member Since 2004

    Old Reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fabulous"

    This novel is all insight and irony. The writing is glorious. Listening to the superb reading of it by Edward Hermann it took my breath away.

    I wonder if without that superb voice, I would have gotten it. It's amazing to me after a lifetime of reading books, to think that I might have missed a great deal by not having them read to me. A reader of intelligence and eloquence, brings to a great book much of what an actor such as Lawrence Olivier brings to Henry the Fifth.

    As I write this I am nearly finished with it and will, as I often do with a book I love, start it again from the beginning before I do. This way I not only put off parting ways with it but get to savor it with a double appreciation, so to speak.

    I wish I had the capacity to find the words to review it properly. Just have a listen.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HIII Grants Pass, OR, United States 01-07-13
    HIII Grants Pass, OR, United States 01-07-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Lovely!"

    This is a book for grown-ups who have been grown up for a long time! As Wallace Stegner describes ageing the listener knows he is basing his comments on both experience (personal) and skill (writing). But, mercy, he does it with such style. The adventure in the story is good also shocking and awful. What was especially outstanding for me as a listener were the descriptions of personal relationships. He knows, accepts and loves his wife, he honors the friend who is critically ill, he really likes the friend who also is his doctor from a reality based admiration. Even his interacting with the cat is fantastic. So....grown ups of the world this one is for us - and you youngin' put it on a list for later, just don't miss it!

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Betty Defuniak Springs, FL, United States 09-19-13
    Betty Defuniak Springs, FL, United States 09-19-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Oh my aching bones!"

    When people start complaining about ageing, I stop listening. I do what I can to retain my health and having someone put thoughts of bodily deterioration into my head is not appreciated. This book has a lot of that. At first, I thought it was going to be the whole book.

    Then there was a story but it wasn't the story I wanted. He went to Europe, found (with so little interest) the home of his mother, realized that her name was still known there and just when I was perking up and paying attention, he said "it wasn't worth the price of admission."

    It was a downer to me .. humorless and too much in the head of the main character.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ken Scottsdale, AZ, United States 03-01-14
    Ken Scottsdale, AZ, United States 03-01-14 Member Since 2007

    Retired high tech CEO who raised quarter horses, pilots his own Bonanza A36 airplane, enjoys shooting sports and spending time with his lovely wife and family

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Preoccupied With Death...but Well Written"

    Well written, but not much excitement or happiness. Descriptions are very well done. Tone is modest and pleasant. I will read everything he has written because he is a very good story teller. Though the telling of the story is very good, the topic is a bit dour. Cheers, Ken

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erik Sooke, British Columbia, Canada 12-05-13
    Erik Sooke, British Columbia, Canada 12-05-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Would be better as a short story..."

    This was an oddball read for me. While the underlying story was interesting enough, I found the author overly descriptive. I know that in some literary circles, "painting" a vivid picture via prose is considered the highest from of story telling, but as in with most things in life, moderation is the key.

    As I've said, however, the underlying story was quite interesting and a little bit twisted when you think about it, but I won't give anything away here. Overall, it was a rather depressing tale, so I won't recommend this for anyone looking for a light uplifting read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ingrid Centurion, South Africa 10-21-13
    Ingrid Centurion, South Africa 10-21-13 Member Since 2010
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    "This book made me think"

    The story is a simple one, but one gets into it and it makes one think. It took me a while to get into it but it was narrated at a comforting pace and is short enough to not labour.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca J. Leamon Ellsworth, ME United States 10-19-13
    Rebecca J. Leamon Ellsworth, ME United States 10-19-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Odd Mishmash: Great writer, uneven plot"

    Well: Stegner's writing knocked my socks off, but the overall content of this novel left me scratching my head. The main character is depressingly flat and whiny, even; there are several plotlines that are left unfinished and unresolved, and the one plot line that creates suspense at all is convoluted, weird, and, yes, also unresolved. Overall, while the performance was very strong and Stegner's description was deft and impressive, the novel felt like a rough draft or a collection of ideas for a longer, more polished piece.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kev United States 09-23-13
    Kev United States 09-23-13 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Perfect Match of Author and Reader"
    If you could sum up The Spectator Bird in three words, what would they be?

    The Spectator Bird, one of the funniest saddest books you'll ever hear, finds the perfect reader in Edward Herrmann. All readers should aspire to the standard he sets. Listening to Herrmann read was as though there were nothing between me and the author; as though Wallace Stegner were communicating his novel directly to me with no intermediary.

    I put Mr Herrmann right up there with George Guidall –– he's that good!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doug Elizabethtown, IN, United States 03-17-14
    Doug Elizabethtown, IN, United States 03-17-14 Member Since 2006

    Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. C.S. Lewis

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Stegner's great talent doesn't resonate with me"

    I've tried and tried to read Stegner - I've started this book three times, and I also have 'Angle of Repose' and 'Big Rock Candy Mountain,' and I just can't make it work. Stegner is very talented, but I can't make any lasting connection to his characters and their lives.

    I have the same problem with Philip Roth's work. Very good stuff, but zero resonance with me.
    So I feel a little guilty giving a low review - but it's an honest opinion of my relationship with the book and not meant as an opinion of Stegner's talent.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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