Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Brake for Little Free Libraries

Lucky for me I had some extra books in the car I had already read. I just happened to see this lending library in a small town up north and stopped. I made a trade.  
I had always wanted to read this novel and now I have my own copy. 

My Ántonia begins with a short fictional introduction told by a nameless narrator, who may or may not be the author herself. The narrator tells you about a friend of hers named Jim Burden, a lawyer for one of the transcontinental railroads. The narrator and Jim were friends when they were kids, and they both knew a rather remarkable Bohemian immigrant girl named Ántonia. (Bohemia is a region in what is now the Czech Republic.) The narrator, who is a writer, tells Jim that she wants to write about Ántonia, but feels that Jim, who knew the girl better, is more qualified to do it. So Jim writes a memoir about the girl and calls it "My Ántonia," and the remainder of the novel is this memoir itself.

My Ántonia was first published 1918, is considered one of the greatest novels by American writer Willa Cather. Willa Cather (1873-1947) is an American author who achieved recognition for her novels of the frontier life on The Great Plains.  It is the final book of her "prairie trilogy" of novels with the companion volumes being O Pioneers and The Song of Lark.

My Ántonia was enthusiastically received in 1918 when it was first published. It was considered a masterpiece and placed Cather in the forefront of women novelists. Today, it is considered as her first masterpiece. Cather was praised for bringing the American West to life and making it personally interesting. It brought place forward almost as if it were one of the characters, while at the same time playing upon the universality of the emotions, which in turn promoted regional American literature as a valid part of mainstream literature.
I thought it interesting that the inscription on her tomb is a quote from her book My Antonia.
December 7, 1873-April 24, 1947
"...that is happiness; to be dissolved
into something complete and great."
From My Antonia
If you enjoy novels set in this time period and memoirs this might be just the book for you.
“After that hard winter, one could not get enough of the nimble air. Every morning I wakened with a fresh consciousness that winter was over. There were none of the signs of spring for which I used to watch in Virginia, no budding woods or blooming gardens. There was only—spring itself; the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere: in the sky, in the swift clouds, in the pale sunshine, and in the warm, high wind—rising suddenly, sinking suddenly, impulsive and playful like a big puppy that pawed you and then lay down to be petted. If I had been tossed down blindfold on that red prairie, I should have known that it was spring.” 

Willa Cather

1 comment:

  1. I love this post and Little Free Libraries. As you may recall, I helped establish one in my hometown of Vesta last summer. My hometown has never had a library and bookmobile service was cut about a year ago.

    As for Willa Cather, I remember reading her work in college and loving her sense of place. A few weeks ago I picked up a collection of her work, including My Antonia, at a used book sale. It's in my stack of volumes to read this summer.