What do you think about weekly meme posts? I’ve always been impressed by book bloggers who write weekly posts about what’s going on in their bookish lives. I wish I had that kind of consistency. It might help keep me focused on what I want to read and avoid the new-book-syndrome to which I am so susceptible. And by “new” book I mean just about any book.
I still have a ‘book hangover’ from reading Middlemarch. I’ve yet to be able to dig into another novel. I picked up and put down a few, DNF’d one that I was supposed to review for another site, and then decided to not read a novel until September. Between September 1-15, I plan to read Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon with some folks over on the Books on the Nightstand Goodreads page (click here to go to the discussion thread).
I’m currently reading two nonfiction titles. The first is A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell (Viking, April 2019). The unnamed women of no importance is Virginia Hall, a woman the Gestapo called, “the most dangerous of all Allied spies.” That’s saying a lot! Hall was one tough, brave person and I’m only at the halfway point in this book.
It’s exciting that so many stories about the work women did during WWII and other time periods are now being told. It’s also a bit maddening. So many stories have been lost forever due to a lack of interest in women’s lives. I hope the names and accomplishments of women like Hall start showing up in school history textbooks.
The other book I’m reading is a biography that came out last week, Becoming Willa Cather: Creation and Career by Daryl W. Palmer (University of Nevada Press). Palmer is taking a close look at how “The West” shaped Cather and how Cather shaped it in her imagination. It’s fascinating so far–full of stories about Cather as a child/young person and what was going on in Red Cloud, Lincoln, and beyond. Palmer focuses on Cather’s earliest published essays and stories. I’m sure I’ll write more about this one when I finish it.
From the girl in Red Cloud who oversaw the construction of a miniature town called Sandy Point in her backyard, to the New Woman on a bicycle, celebrating art and castigating political abuse in Lincoln newspapers, to the aspiring novelist in New York City, committed to creation and career, Daryl W. Palmer’s groundbreaking literary biography offers a provocative new look at Willa Cather’s evolution as a writer.
Willa Cather has long been admired for O Pioneers! (1913), Song of the Lark (1915), and My Ántonia (1918)—the “prairie novels” about the lives of early Nebraska pioneers that launched her career. Thanks in part to these masterpieces, she is often viewed as a representative of pioneer life on the Great Plains, a controversial innovator in American modernism, and a compelling figure in the literary history of LGBTQ America. A century later, scholars acknowledge Cather’s place in the canon of American literature and continue to explore her relationship with the West.
Drawing on original archival research and paying unprecedented attention to Cather’s early short stories, Palmer demonstrates that the relationship with Nebraska in the years leading up to O Pioneers! is more dynamic than critics and scholars thought. Readers will encounter a surprisingly bold young author whose youth in Nebraska served as a kind of laboratory for her future writing career. Becoming Willa Cather changes the way we think about Cather, a brilliant and ambitious author who embraced experimentation in life and art, intent on reimagining the American West.
As soon as I hit publish on this post I’m going to read “Scandal” for the Willa Cather Short Story Project.
I’m not sure how much reading time I’ll get in this week. My Mom and cousins arrive tomorrow for a five day visit. We’re taking day trips to Mystic, Boston, and NYC. It’ll be a fun but jam-packed visit.
What’s on your reading agenda for the week?