I was thinking of Willa Cather lately. For me, she came highly recommended by an English teacher I had, Sister Faith Schuster. Sister Faith came from a large Catholic farm family in Pilot Grove Missouri. Willa Cather spent much of her childhood in Red Cloud, Missouri. I would imagine, Sister Faith would have felt a kinship with Cather. I have written before about Sister Faith and how proud she was of her parents who had lived long and faithfully on the farm. Sister Faith was all about faith, all about literature, and all about truth and beauty.
I read a few of Cather’s books in college and recently picked up her novel, O Pioneers, once again. I watch Peter J Rea’s video blog about books in which he briefly mentioned it. I thought I would have another look. I am not going to pontificate on the book, but I will say that Cather says a great deal in few words. I have come to appreciate writing that kick starts your brain rather than fills you with details.
One other thing that I want to mention about the book is just how different we are becoming from people like those described in Cather’s work. The Swedes, Bohemians, and French Canadians that Cather writes about in O Pioneers are far different than modern people today. If you are one of those who want to chase young readers away from such writing to the “more exotic” or more diverse, I don’t think you need to bother. Her characters and setting will certainly be something new for most people. If you prefer to send young readers to modern female writers who lived independent and extraordinary lives, you need to go no further than Cather. Cather fits the bill.
Cather’s personal life is a bit of a mystery, although that was not thought particularly relevant when I was in college. But she had a Catholic background and that was in keeping with much of our reading in those days. She eventually moved to New York and did much of her writing from that urban setting, but reflecting more or her rural experiences than city life.