Thursday, February 16, 2006

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Beautiful if dull epic tale of immigrant pioneer life in Nebraska around the 1870s. Upon this re-reading of Cather’s book I was struck by how much less touching the story was for me this time. I suspect that a lot of this has to do with the romantic elements in my personality being so much more subdued than they once were. Specifically, I remember the narrator’s return to meet Antonia as a matron to be a heartbreaking commentary on the passage of time and it’s effect on unrequieted romance. I believe I’d mentally filed it alongside Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men. Cather’s story does not really concern itself with any interaction between Antonia and the narrator which is not platonic. Still quite moving though is the chapter dealing with the death of Antonia’s father and his burial at the crossroads. Also, great embedded story about the marriage in Russia gone horribly awry, in which the wolves eat everyone.

Good book, useful if you are looking for some good details on the period, or want to muse on the fate of immigrant customs and beliefs in the face of progress and Americanization. Also, if you are looking for an ode to the strength of will and character of those hearty women who helped bring domesticity to the American West, this is the book for you.

I’d like to spend a little time reading a few of Cather’s other novels. I know that Sherry really enjoyed Death Comes for the Archbishop. But for now, other stories and other voices are of greater interest.

Read this one back before '05 turned into '06. Still a few more to get through-- each of which deserves more time than I'm likely to put in.

Since when do you have to feel guilty about neglecting a hobby for Christsakes?


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