Tuesday, March 25, 2014

WILLA CATHER: WRITING FROM THE HEARTLAND



 
Author Willa Cather, born in 1873, was forever changed when her family moved to Nebraska. There the plains, the tumultuous weather and the immigrant families who farmed the vast stretches of land influenced her thinking. After having her first essay published in college, she changed her major from science to English and went on to write short stories for magazines. The novels she wrote would become American classics. Her stories of the Midwest throw open a window on a time and place little known and her characters enter the hearts of readers. Cather’s books can be found on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library.

Her Prairie Trilogy, written from 1913-1918, is among her best known work and includes O Pioneers, Song of the Lark and My Antonia. Each of these simple stories set at the turn of the twentieth century recalls the pioneers’ hard work, optimism and disappointments. My Antonia is considered Cather’s masterpiece and is the most read of her novels. It’s the story of a Bohemian (Czech) young woman whose zest for life, dreams and determination are colored by the limitations of being a young and poor woman.  All three books will appeal to individual readers and book groups.
 
Cather later visited the west and was inspired to write Death Comes for the Archbishop. Loosely based on history, it’s the story of a Catholic bishop and priest who came to the new U.S. territory of New Mexico to set up a church in an area entrenched in Mexican, Spanish and Native American culture.

A more recent look at Willa Cather, not found in her books but in her correspondence, can be found in the Selected Letters of Willa Cather. She destroyed her letters and forbade the publication of them, but her friends held on to their copies from her.  Here her correspondence with celebrities and friends gives a vivid picture of a woman and author involved with the world around her.

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