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October Light by John Gardner
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October Light (1976)

by John Gardner

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559927,550 (3.9)18

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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
3.5 stars ( )
  AaronJacobs | Oct 23, 2018 |
full of fine writing, exuberant writing, mock fiction, deep fiction, and wonderful characters.

The siblings James and Sally are sharing the Bennington, Vermont family house in their old age. James inherited the farm, and Sally came to live with him when her money ran out after being widowed. It hasn't gone especially well. James is hard, determined to reject all modernity, and Sally is equally stubborn. When James turns his shotgun on her television, the war is on.

Locked (and self-locked) in her upstairs bedroom, Sally spends her defiant isolation reading a tattered pulp fiction novel that she would never have touched in other circumstances. We read along with her, as she escapes from the domestic war into San Francisco drug running, sexual license and derring-do, constantly interrupted by missing pages. It is true escapist reading, but it's not only the room she is escaping from.

The Vermont story expands to include James's daughter's family, his friends at the local bar, the local minister and guests, other people in the town, even some Bennington girls. And it expands into memories of childhood, courtship, married life, relatives lost one way or another, and the work and beauty of the land. Ultimately, it is not only the bedroom door that is unlocked. ( )
  ffortsa | Mar 8, 2017 |
Here, in one of Garnder's first novels, domestic warfare between 2 spirited, overl opinionated senior citizens -- brother and sister -- brings chaos to their community of friends and family. Gardner's story says much about that vital tension at the heart of American line -- the conflict between tradition and progressivism -- and about the difficult business of pushing beyond this conflict to find a place where one cant stand, secure and untroubled beneath the haunted, holy light that comes with an autumn in the Land of the Free! - Adam
  stephencrowe | Nov 11, 2015 |
The book within a book didn't work for me. I really don't know what Gardner was trying to do here. It's supposed to be pulp fiction, but it wasn't a typical thriller in style. I like straight narratives, so I think his "jazzing around" was not my speed. The main novel is filled with long, long passages of inner thoughts, and not a lot of action. It comes close to being a parody of the literary novel, overloaded with past guilt and death. Nickel Mountain, by the same author, remains one of my favorites. ( )
  BobNolin | Aug 9, 2013 |
No one but John Gardner could take the disputes of an aging brother and sister and spin it into a major lesson about Life.

One very cool aspect of this book is that there's a cheap novel (read by the sister) within this literary masterpiece :-) ( )
  AMZoltai | Feb 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Gardnerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Penberthy, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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to my Father
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'Corruption? I'll tell you about corruption, sonny!'
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
James Page has blown his sisters TV to hell with a shotgun, and chased her into her room with a firewood club.
There she will live or die on a diet of apples, and a lurid fantasy of illicit drugs, kinky violence, and casual sex.
But fantasies end, and reality is right outside the door.
The big brother-and-sister war is on.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0811216373, Paperback)

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-year-old James Page. Polar opposites in nearly every way, their clash of values turns a bitter corner when the exacting and resolute James takes a shotgun to his sister's color television set. After he locks Sally up in her room with the trashy "blockbuster" novel that has consumed her (and only apples to eat), the novel-within-the-novel becomes an echo chamber providing glimpses into the history of the family that spawned these bizarre, sad, and stubborn people. Gardner uses the turbulent siblings as a stepping-off point from which he expands upon the lives of their extended families, and the rural community that surrounds them. He also engages larger issues of how liberals and conservatives define themselves, and considers those moments when life transcends all their arguments.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:42 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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-year-old James Page. Polar opposites in nearly every way, their clash of values turns a bitter corner when the exacting and resolute James takes a shotgun to his sister's color television set. After he locks Sally up in her room with the trashy blockbuster" novel that has consumed her (and only apples to eat), the novel-within-the-novel becomes an echo chamber providing glimpses into the history of the family that spawned these bizarre, sad, and stubborn people. Gardner uses the turbulent siblings as a stepping-off point from which he expands upon the lives of their extended families, and the rural community that surrounds them. He also engages larger issues of how liberals and conservatives define themselves, and considers those moments when life transcends all their arguments. "… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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