For many of us, home is connected to a place. That’s why my book selection for this week is the novel:
by Willa Cather
I read My Antonia in my twenties. By then, our brick Tudor was gone. I couldn't go back to it. Certainly not in the same way. Maybe this is why I found My Antonia's sense of place seductive, aching and as full of wonder about place as any place can be.
Take a look at this classic story set in Nebraska.
If you've already read it, tell me your thoughts. Did you connect with it or not? Name a book you love that evokes a powerful sense of place.And an afterthought: In 8th grade, I hated the title, My Antonia. I had no desire to read it. I thought it sounded stuffy. Then I read the novel in my twenties and fell in love. I think grammar schools often over-push the classics before kids are emotionally ready to appreciate what they're reading.
When it comes to being moved by the setting, I definitely go for places that are stark, like Andrew Wyeth paintings. Something really hits me emotionally about them.ReplyDelete
These ones are amazing for setting: Carson McCullers, Member of the Wedding; all of Annie Proulx; GG Marquez, Leaf Storm; Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi. And The Little House books.
Sue--Great reading suggestions. I haven't read most of them. Have read Carson McCullers and loved her. Read her during my "Southern" reading phase. If you like stark, then My Antonia should appeal to you, too. It's big sky country. Dry, expansive.ReplyDelete
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Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and his Border Trilogy are extremely rooted in place, to the point that I feel like I've been in that country, in that era, on horseback, after reading them.ReplyDelete
I'm also remembering Dot Jackson's Refuge as being a novel that put me right where it was and kept me there. I still have a sense of the place, and I've only read the book once, several years ago - probably time for a revisit!
And I think Barbara Kingsolver did a wonderful job with place in The Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer.
I read Willa Cather in high school, and although it's been many years, I do remember the setting and can see scenes from the story in my mind. I should revisit that one too.
Thanks for your suggestions.
You know, I think reading My Antonia in high school is probably a terrible time to read it. I think it calls for an older audience. I'm sure it was assigned to you as part of your curriculum. In my town, they assigned My Antonia in 8th grade. I didn't read it then but I remember thinking the title sounded stuffy and boring.
Jessica, I think you're right - so many of the classics that get assigned in those earlier years (I guess b/c the audience is captive and won't remain that way for too long!) are really such potent material for that age group.ReplyDelete
We homeschool, and I have so many of the classic books here, from my own childhood and from being an English major undergrad. It's been interesting to watch my 12-year old daughter, an avid reader, go through the shelves finding what suits her.
She will pick something out, read a bit, and then put it back, but a year or so later I'll find she's pulled it out again and finished it that time.
She has tried my 3-volume Proust translation several times, lured by the sheer volume of it - but it's either not her time for Proust or not her taste... LOL.
Which makes me think - Proust did a nice job with place too!
We homeschooled our son for awhile. Homeschooling is a fantastic option for the right kids and family and not what many people imagine. It's typically not about being at home, but out in the world, which offers endless learning possibilities. It also requires mammoth devotion and time from one or both parents, and trust.
Thank you for the Willa Cather reminder--it's been years. I'm just insane about "Stones for Ibarra"--the way Harriet Doerr shows you a room (or a landscape) by having people move through it, handle things. A woman climbs a ladder to clean her chandelier, and finds a red thread that's been placed there as a charm by her housekeeper--to keep the woman from discovering a crack in the glass. Suddenly you know what an antique Mexican chandelier looks like, and you know the spiritual belief system of the housekeeper, too. The pages are drenched with sense of place.ReplyDelete
And may I second Billie on Cormac!
Wow. What an image. A red thread--so tiny and yet so significant, and the thread of the story that trails it. Magnificent. I hate to admit it, but I have not yet read Cormac McCarthy. And I need to read Stones for Ibarra.
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I totally agree that grammar schools--and I would also add middle schools and sometimes high schools--push the "classics" on kids ... and it backfires. For instance, I cringe when I hear adults say that they "hate" Shakespeare because they were forced to read it when they were younger. But what should be done about this? Should kids not be introduced to the classics in a regular school setting?ReplyDelete
You make a good point. The exposure is necessary. They should be introduced, but how these classics are taught needs some rethinking. Of course, a great teacher makes all the difference. I think the same thing happens in early history classes. At least it did for me. So dry. Too much emphasis on dates, etc.
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"I think grammar schools often over-push the classics before kids are emotionally ready to appreciate what they're reading."ReplyDelete
Absolutely true. Yet, there should be SOME pushing or some kids might never discover them. I might have been the only kid in ninth grade who loved A TALE OF TWO CITIES, which was assigned reading. It's a fine line.
Haven't read MY ANTONIA yet, but now I can put it on my list. Thanks.
True, Kristina. It is a fine line!ReplyDelete
If you're interested in place in fiction, you should check out the novels of Donigan Merritt. Place is a primary influence on his fiction.ReplyDelete
Hello as well. I just subscribed to your blog, having seen the link on Facebook. I look forward to reading.
Welcome, Brad. Thanks for joining. I don't know Donigan Merritt's work. Thanks for the suggestion and for stopping by!ReplyDelete
I'm a bit late to the party, so to speak, with this comment. I just came over from Donigan Merritt's blog.ReplyDelete
I wholeheartedly agree with you about school pushing the classics. Sometimes though, I do wonder if they're more or less giving us an adult reading list to which we can return. I found that Moby Dick is a weird, wholly wonderful book. I went back to John Donne, and Milton's Paradise Lost, and was completely held in their sway.
Edith Wharton and F. Scott Fitzgerald were much better once I was an adult reader too. And now, I shall have to add Willa Cather to my reading list- thank you!
Glad to meet you. It's never too late to comment here.
Thinking about this classics in high school issue, I do think exposure is important. We all know the power of a good teacher, and it works the other way. A terrible teacher's impact stays with us a long time, too.
Hope you like Willa C when you get to it.