Author Profile: Willa Cather

New segment! New segments are always fun, aren’t they? (Is a segment even the right thing to call this? Is that just for TV? Anyways–) It’s called Author Profile, where I talk about authors that I’ve read multiple texts from. This is the first one, and it’s on Willa Cather.

Who: Willa Cather
Where: America
When: December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947
What: My Antonia and “Paul’s Case”

Last year I read two things by Willa Cather, a novel and a short story. She’s most well known for her novels on life in the midwest (of which My Antonia is one), but she’s written some truly amazing short stories. My English teacher liked to describe her as the anti-F. Scott Fitzgerald. While that is certainly true when referencing My Antonia, “Paul’s Case” fits the early 20th century bill.

“Paul’s Case” was published in 1905. In simple terms, it’s an examination of isolation and superficiality in the 20th century. Everything in Paul’s life in gilded, and Cather, who is the queen of atmosphere, creates an environment where his despair is a slow moving fog over the entire story. Is that a strange description? Too much metaphor? Yeah, probably, but the best way to describe this short story is foggy.

My Antonia, on the other hand, is completely different. Completely. It wasn’t until I was going through my things for Flashback Friday (another one coming this Friday, by the way) that I even realized that they were written by the same author. Antonia is a short little novel that follows the life of one midwestern boy through the course of his life. There is, of course, Antonia, who although is not in the entire thing, is a haunting figure in the main character’s life. Not, necessarily, in a bad way.

Part of the reason I love My Antonia is because of how different it is. It’s a break from the usual doom and gloom of serious literature. Thomas Wolfe said “you can’t go home again” and essentially, Cather’s novel is a relentless assault on that. Yeah, you can.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for beautiful prose and an even more beautiful, neatly packaged story, look no further than Willa Cather.


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