The Spectator Bird

  • by Wallace Stegner
  • Narrated by Edward Herrmann
  • 7 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.


What the Critics Say

National Book Award Winner, 1976

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


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


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.
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- Joyce

Maybe it's a case of timing...

I hate to say this because I have loved every Stegner I've read so far. But Joe Allson's tedious self-absorption grated on me after a while; don't see how his wife put up with it. The excellent narration only emphasized the petulant whining of the protagonist. I'm of an age where reflections, whether sweet, bitter, regretful, angry or content, are to be expected of me, and I comply. But while I may be approaching the end with some trepidation, and spend way too much time contemplating life and not always positively, I refuse to allow myself to be an Allston. Perhaps it's because unlike Joe, I still have work which I will inhabit until I drop; it keeps me joyfully and necessarily occupied. I may finish the book one of these days; right now it just irritates me.
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- Pamela

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-18-2009
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.