Thursday, April 26, 2012
Rereading My Antonia
As it was, My Antonia was the next book on my Willa Cather Chronologically challenge, so I already had it on the radar. Rereading ensued. I'm not typically a huge rereader, but I have no problem revisiting a book I've loved...isn't it curious to see how a book will change depending on when in your life you read it? When I'd read My Antonia previously, I had to speed through it in order to finish by the time my book club met. This time around, I was determined to take my time and soak it up.
Turns out, it just isn't a very long book. Also turns out, it just doesn't entrance me like Cather's O Pioneers! or Song of the Lark. It's very good, but even less than halfway through reading Cather's oeuvre, I wouldn't say it is her best. My rereading experience was remarkably similar to my initial reading experience a few years back: it's a good story, well-written, and quite evocative of place and era. It didn't make me cry or sigh, but neither did I get bored or irritated.
The thing that amazes me about Willa Cather is her ability to display all of her passion in such seemingly simple words. Plot-wise, My Antonia isn't a suspenseful story with twists and turns, rather it is a remembrance of youth, of hopes and dreams, and a look at the outcome. You get to decide if Antonia's resulting life is squandered potential or life truly lived - an interesting question when compared to Jim's life. Conventional wisdom would assert that Jim lived up to his potential and Antonia did not, but if you tilt the picture and view it through an Old World lens, it ends up looking quite different.
Isn't it interesting how an author's best known book isn't necessarily their best work? Obviously this could be debated ad nauseam, but it does seem to happen. Have you had any experiences with that? I think that's why I'll often choose a less popular book - I feel I'm more likely to get lucky.
(Next Willa Cather read is a collection of short stories: Youth and the Bright Medusa. This collection contains 4 stories that were previously published; I haven't decided if I will reread those or not.)