“If all memories decay, what of them will really ever be left? What is it that's growing from out of the rotting material of old memories? Is every moment of the past simply gone forever? Why can't they be held intact somehow?” ― Matthew Stadler, Landscape: Memory
An excellent debut work that, through the lens of a homoerotic teen's diary or sketchbook, brilliantly portrays the atmosphere of San Francisco in the year 1915. With Maxwell, the narrator, his totally modern parents, and the allure of San Francisco during its second flowering—the glimmering years between the disaster of 1906 and the sobering effects of World War I—Stadler succeeds in a magnificent way. When Max visits the Pacific Exposition with his best friend Duncan, the son of a Persian sculptor, the prose is flavored with historical detail and childlike joy. Yet tragedy strikes early when Max's father crosses the Bay to Bolinas to continue his bird-watching hobby.
Memory and dreams seem to fill this novel with a unique atmosphere. It seems like there is always something that is just beyond the horizon, a fleeting suggestion of the unknown. The combination of dramatic adult changes in circumstances contrasts with the growing young love between the two boys. The beautiful prose style and the effective narrative reminded me of William Maxwell's The Folded Leaf or John Knowles' A Separate Peace. This was an engrossing novel that deserves to be saluted for both the complexity of its themes and the author's lyricism.
Thank you so much for your insightful and excellent review and recommendation of Matthew Stadler's Landscape: Memory. I will add this book to my reading list.
I've always loved William Maxwell's writing incl. "The Folded Leaf" and "They Came Like Swallows". The latter did not make it on any "pandemic reading list" during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, which seems like a missed opportunity for a revival. But Maxwell will always be one of my favourite American writers (he was a writer's writer).
I also wondered that the success of Edmund White's semi-autobiographic novel such as "A Boy's Own Story" (1982) might have paved the way for the publication of novels such as Landscape: Memory by Matthew Stadler.
Thank you once again for your review.
With kind regards, ASD
Thank you for your kind words. I share your feelings for Maxwell's fine writing. I encountered "The Folded Leaf" when I was in college and have reread it since. It is surely possible that White influenced Matthew Stadler along with other gay authors of the next generation.
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