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My Ántonia
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Group Reads > My Antonia by Willa Cather

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message 1: by Maureen, mo-nemclature (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maureen (modusa) | 681 comments Mod
hey kids:

i added this to my to-read list after patty (hi patty!) gave it to me this past weekend and found that patrick and gloria wanted to read it as well. i suggested we might have a group read but then realized how slender the book is, so we've agreed (along with kerry! yay!) that we will convene here after labour day to discuss the novel. :)

if anybody else would like to join us or chime in with their thoughts, feel free to join us!


message 2: by Kerry, flame-haired janeite (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kerry (kerryanndunn) | 879 comments Mod
Yay! I've been finding that if I don't agree to a group read I am slacking in my reading. If I agree to a group read than I have encouragement from others and I feel compelled not to let the group down!


message 3: by Adrian (new)

Adrian | 250 comments

Plush Yoda says, "Read a novel about Nebraska frontier I will not. Herh herh herh!"

Plush Yoda always has an attitude. I may reread Death Comes For The Archbishop and add inappropriate comments.

Why does Plush Yoda have those Cthulhu appendages at the bottom?!


message 4: by Kerry, flame-haired janeite (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kerry (kerryanndunn) | 879 comments Mod
Adrian, you are a lovely human being.


message 5: by Dan, deadpan man (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan | 638 comments Mod
I should be in if i can dig up my copy of it. I have been having a hell of a time focusing lately, maybe this will help.


message 6: by Kerry, flame-haired janeite (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kerry (kerryanndunn) | 879 comments Mod
I am not even going to bother trying to dig my copy out of all my boxed up books. When I was in a local thrift store recently I noticed at least 10 copies of My Antonia in their used books section for a dollar a piece! I'm just going to stop in and buy one.


message 7: by Maureen, mo-nemclature (last edited Aug 30, 2011 01:57PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maureen (modusa) | 681 comments Mod
Adrian wrote: "

Plush Yoda says, "Read a novel about Nebraska frontier I will not. Herh herh herh!"

Plush Yoda always has an attitude. I may reread Death Comes For The Archbishop and add inappropriate comments..."


adrian! i want the plush yoda though truth be told, he seems more like a felt yoda. i like his cthulhu toes. :)

patty also loves Death Comes for the Archbishop so if i like this one, i'll be adding it to my list and wait with glee for the snark:

yay that kerry and dan might be joining us -- have you dug out/found the book yet -- labour day is this weekend!! :)


message 8: by Kerry, flame-haired janeite (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kerry (kerryanndunn) | 879 comments Mod
Um...oops! No I haven't yet! I meet with my "real world" book club this Wednesday...I wonder if I could talk them into reading My Antonia too???


message 9: by Adrian (new)

Adrian | 250 comments Maureen wrote: "adrian! i want the plush yoda though truth be told, he seems more like a felt yoda...."

Plush Yoda has made note of your crude attempt to "feel" him up and says, "Brazen wench you are!"


message 10: by Kerry, flame-haired janeite (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kerry (kerryanndunn) | 879 comments Mod
So first things first, apparently I have been pronouncing Antonia wrong my entire life! There is a footnote in my Bantam Classics edition which explains how to pronounce it.

The Bohemian name Antonia is strongly accented on the first syllable, like the English name Anthony, and the i is, of course, given the sound of long e. The name is pronounced An'-ton-ee-ah.

WHO KNEW?? I have always read it as An-tone'-ee-ah. Now I have to completely adjust it in my head going forward!


message 11: by Adrian (new)

Adrian | 250 comments Kerry wrote: "So first things first, apparently I have been pronouncing Antonia wrong my entire life! There is a footnote in my Bantam Classics edition which explains how to pronounce it..."

My high school teacher corrected our pronunciation of Cather's Antonia. She wore long scarves and would toss her head back as she intoned AN-toe-nee-ah. It was all very dramatic -- like a dinner theatre version of Cleopatra's death scene.


message 12: by Maureen, mo-nemclature (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maureen (modusa) | 681 comments Mod
well, i started reading it last night, and i'm only a few pages in, but i choked up on the subway, when jim and antonia meet and she grabs his hand and then just go off to play, and everything's very vivid at that moment, very real. i can see them in the sunshine, the sister playing with the bug. so of course, i didn't progress very far, trying to keep myself composed because it wouldn't do to have see me crying fifteen pages or so into a book. that's just not done. :P


Gloria (GloriaB) | 79 comments Hello, all!
(raising my hand and declaring myself "present", Maureen).

So, yes, I finished it. I found it good. 3.5 out of 5 in my opinion. As I was telling Patrick and Les, I enjoyed Antonia as a character, but didn't think she was as fleshed out as even some of the more minor characters (Lena ... or even Otto, for instance).
But I will admit that Cather's descriptions are beautiful. I could see, hear, and smell everything that she wrote.


message 14: by Maureen, mo-nemclature (last edited Sep 02, 2011 10:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maureen (modusa) | 681 comments Mod
okay, i'm done!

there's not really a plot.

i really liked the book -- i wasn't sure if crying by page fifteen was going to bear out, but i found i really like cather's writing, period. she accomplishes a lot in straight forward memoir as narrative, and i like the sense of nostalgia that permeates the book. i have read that cather was friends with sarah orne jewett, author of the country of the pointed firs (fantastic book - thanks ben? patty?) and the two share a lot in style and approach with vignette/chapters that all stand on their own. but while i adored the pointed firs, and think for me, it is a superior book, for all its stillness it didn't have an antonia. and i'm going to compare antonia to daisy buchanan in gatsby, or faulkner's caddy, or helen of troy. she's that girl, that dreams are made of. gloria, that's how i am picturing your problem with her characterization -- this stock ethereal beauty that is perhaps sometimes a little too diffused, a little too remote -- i've been frustrated by characters like that in the past. sometimes you feel cheated at the slightness of the character for the impact they bestow. but for me, antonia was an infusion, she was like the river that jim so loved, threading herself into his story so that even when he is away from her they're merged in my mind, they've imprinted upon each other so much that i can't really think of him without her, and i think that some epic characterization -- cather is a vivid and powerful writer, really adept at description, who seems capable of writing a story that seems a perfect memory perfectly recounted. it feels very much as if this really happened (as indeed it may have) but you are there, in the days before radio, tv, movies sitting as enthralled as the other children listening to her tell the story.

highlights: when tony recalls the story of the tramp.
also, the whole weirdness with krajiek and the axe! the story of the russian bride! i really loved the little gothic moments, the secrets of neighbours, and the barely suppressed violence of life the underbelly of society just springing up in the place johnny carson grew up -- his show was the first i ever heard of nebraska, when i was knee-high to a grasshopper writing him letters on my kermit the frog stationery. :)

phew! i sure blathered on a lot. i should probably steal some of this for my review. :P

gloria, i loved that quote you pulled about the trees. several times i stopped and read over a sentence or two, thinking i had to write that down, because it was so perfectly laid out, and so wise. :)


message 15: by Gloria (last edited Sep 01, 2011 09:00PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gloria (GloriaB) | 79 comments Maureen,
How you described her as being ethereal and not quite touchable makes sense (probably why I can't grasp, nor like, Daisy Buchanan either). Like she stands for something greater or beyond her.

If any book set in Nebraska mentions trees, you HAVE to pull that quote-- have you seen that place??

I am looking forward to reading other works by Cather though. :)


message 16: by Maureen, mo-nemclature (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maureen (modusa) | 681 comments Mod
i only know that johnny grew up there and there were a lot of fields. i figured that was why he liked golf so much. :) but i guess i didn't realize it was quite so barren! i've only ever lived around lots of trees!

yes, i think i will be reading death comes for the archbishop as well.

do you normally like this memoir style of writing?


Gloria (GloriaB) | 79 comments It makes you appreciate trees, that's for sure. I've relatives who live there, so I've ventured into that state more times than should be deemed necessary (my apologies to any Nebraskans...).

If it's done well, yes, I enjoy memoir styles of writing. Case in point, just finished rereading Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow. THAT is gorgeous. You wanna sob on the subway, read that.


message 18: by Maureen, mo-nemclature (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maureen (modusa) | 681 comments Mod
Gloria wrote: "Case in point, just finished rereading Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow. THAT is gorgeous. You wanna sob on the subway, read that."

everyone should have an appreciation of trees. i like to pet them, myself. :)

and thanks for the recommendation! i can't say i'm actively seeking books to make me cry on the subway -- it just happens way too often. i'm a bit emotional. :P last year ben pointed me in the direction of The Book of Ebenezer Le Page which is one of the most beautiful books i've ever read. you might want to pick that up -- i would rank it up there as one of the best ever ever. of course, i'm not sure where our tastes coincide yet -- i should do one of those "compare books" things with you. i did see that you liked stephen crane's novels better than his poetry whereas i'm the complete opposite. :)


message 19: by Maureen, mo-nemclature (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maureen (modusa) | 681 comments Mod
gloria! i did the comparison and it turns out we agree on quite a few things (like we both really didn't like middlesex, for example), and then i saw you gave gatsby a three star review while i gave it a five -- i had no idea when i used daisy as an example. :)


Gloria (GloriaB) | 79 comments I pet trees too. Go figure... :)

Thanks for the heads up on Ebenezer. Looks great. Added to the list.

I like Stephen Crane's short stories best. Not sure why.

I like Fitzgerald, I really do. I took a summer and read everything by him a long time ago. I just disliked all the characters in The Great Gatsby-- wanted to smack all their heads together at certain points.
Again, his short stories I found very engaging though.


message 21: by Maureen, mo-nemclature (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maureen (modusa) | 681 comments Mod
Gloria wrote: "I pet trees too. Go figure... :)

Thanks for the heads up on Ebenezer. Looks great. Added to the list.

I like Stephen Crane's short stories best. Not sure why.

I like Fitzgerald, I really do. ..."


i think we're all strings on a fret board of art, in this case, writing, and we all vibrate to the strumming differently.

i did that same thing with fitzgerald, i don't know how many years ago. i had always loved gatsby (i adore the derailed jay gatsby -- all his ambition for himself lost to a woman who only truly cares about herself)and then i picked up the beautiful and the damned, couldn't believe people didn't like it, and went to town on everything i could get my hands on. i remember being horrified by racism in some of the short stories, but i think fitzgerald's reputation is really well deserved.

as for stephen crane: i read the poems before anything else, and when i came to read his fiction i liked it but it wasn't what i'd hoped for. i wanted long stories about demons who ate their own tasty hearts because they were so deliciously bitter. :)

god that ebenezer le page. it's one of the few books i won't loan out because i have to have it near me. it's a comfort. :)


message 22: by Kerry, flame-haired janeite (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kerry (kerryanndunn) | 879 comments Mod
Well, I've avoided reading all these entries because I am so NOT DONE! I'm on like page 30 or something! I did like this little bit so far:

"Grandfather put on silver-rimmed spectacles and read several Psalms. His voice was so sympathetic and he read so interestingly that I wished he had chosen one of my favorite chapters in Book of Kings. I was awed by his intonation of the word "Selah." "He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whome He loved. Selah." I had no idea what the word meant; perhaps he had not. But, as he uttered it, it became oracular, the most sacred of words."

So of course I had to look up "Selah" and this is what I found:

Selah (Hebrew) is a word used frequently in the Hebrew Bible, often in the Psalms, and is a difficult concept to translate. (It should not be confused with the Hebrew word sela‘ which means "rock.") It is probably either a liturgico-musical mark or an instruction on the reading of the text, something like "stop and listen". "Selah" can also be used to indicate that there is to be a musical interlude at that point in the Psalm. The Amplified Bible states Selah as "pause, and think of that".

The Psalms were sung accompanied by musical instruments and there are references to this in many chapters. Thirty-one of the thirty-nine psalms with the caption "To the choir-master" include the word "Selah". Selah notes a break in the song and as such is similar in purpose to Amen in that it stresses the importance of the preceding passage. Alternatively, Selah may mean "forever", as it does in some places in the liturgy (notably the second to last blessing of the Amidah). Another interpretation claims that Selah comes from the primary Hebrew root word [calah] which means "to hang", and by implication to measure (weigh). Also "Selah" is the name of a city from the time of David and Solomon.

So interesting, no? I had never heard the word "Selah" before! This explanation is from this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selah

and it goes on to say that Selah is often used in Reggae music!


message 23: by Dan, deadpan man (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan | 638 comments Mod
As is often the case I am behind. I have about 50 pages of Blood Meridian to finish off. But I did manage to find a public domain copy for the e-reader which means I don't have to dig through boxes in the 110 degree garage.

So what I am saying is that I'll be starting and hopefully finishing My Antonia this long holiday weekend.


message 24: by Dan, deadpan man (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan | 638 comments Mod
Wow, I liked this book a lot more than I expected. Because it is nearly 1:30am I am just going to paste the review I wrote of the book here. I hope to be able to add more to the conversation once I get some rest.

"Aside from hearing the title and the author's name I knew nothing of this book prior to picking it up the other day. I did so because a number of friends were reading the book together and knew I should get in on the action. I am glad I did.

This was a wonderfully straightforward tale rendered beautifully by simple yet powerful language. It was the type of book that evoked sentimentality from me. For what though, I'm not really sure. As another reviewer (Mo) says, "i like the sense of nostalgia that permeates the book." Here is an example of that nostalgia that really struck me:

As I went back alone over that familiar road, I could almost believe that a boy and girl ran along beside me, as our shadows used to do, laughing and whispering to each other in the grass.

A special thanks to all the FFs who's reading it right now. I'm glad I picked this one up."


message 25: by Maureen, mo-nemclature (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maureen (modusa) | 681 comments Mod
nice quote, dan. but then it seems that cather is almost infinitely quotable. lord knows i had a quote from her in my old email signature for ages and i hadn't even read her yet. :)

kerry! glad to see you haven't given up on us! that's interesting about selah, and it reminds me of how little the grandfather actually says and does in the book but yet, how strongly one feels his influence on jim, and in the book. i think cather really hit the mark in providing enough information about characters: people move in and out of this book and i don't resent them leaving. generally it seems they stay as long as they're needed, and they toddle on through, and i don't wish them back again.


message 26: by Dan, deadpan man (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan | 638 comments Mod
You know Mo, you are right she is nearly infinitely quotable. I have highlighted quite a few passages from this relatively brief novel.

I also have to agree that it doesn't seem that any character lingered too long, nor departed too early. It seems we were given the precise amount of character development needed for their role in the story. I can't imagine it's an easy thing to balance.


message 27: by Kerry, flame-haired janeite (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kerry (kerryanndunn) | 879 comments Mod
I wasn't going to read before bed last night because I had gone on a long walk and was tired, but I cracked My Antonia open for a second and got sucked into the chapter that tells that horrific story about the Russians throwing the bride and groom to the wolves! It was so terrifying! I felt bad for poor Peter and Pavel, because even though it's awful what they did, it seems like it was the only way to save themselves. In a life and death situation like that don't you think our basest animal instincts would kick in and we would do anything to survive?? It's a difficult thing to contemplate. Would YOU have thrown the bride and groom to the wolves to save yourself if YOU were in that situation?


message 28: by Adrian (new)

Adrian | 250 comments Kerry wrote: "In a life and death situation like that don't you think our basest animal instincts would kick in and we would do anything to survive?? It's a difficult thing to contemplate. Would YOU have thrown the bride and groom to the wolves to save yourself if YOU were in that situation? ..."

If our basest animal instincts kicked in, we'd probably jump on the wolves and rassle 'em for a while before being devoured. Might be fun.

Throwing other people to wolves in order to save ourselves seems like an utterly human response. Human, all too human.

I wouldn't hesitate to toss the newlywed Kardashians into the maws of some wolves. But even hungry wolves have standards.


message 29: by Kerry, flame-haired janeite (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kerry (kerryanndunn) | 879 comments Mod
Hmmmm, now I'm thinking of other newlyweds I'd like to throw to the wolves...maybe Doug Hutchison and his "child" bride? That whole situation is just CREEPY. I'm sure even the wolves would be creeped out by them and would pass them over.


message 30: by Slowrabbit, photographic eye (new) - rated it 3 stars

Slowrabbit | 133 comments Mod
i first heard the word, Selah, from Lauryn Hill. that was the title of the track she did for the divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood. in the lyrics she keeps repeating that it means prayer and meditation. i think, as in the wiki entry and other things i've read...pause/reflection, seems close.


message 31: by Adrian (new)

Adrian | 250 comments Kerry wrote: "Hmmmm, now I'm thinking of other newlyweds I'd like to throw to the wolves...maybe Doug Hutchison and his "child" bride? That whole situation is just CREEPY. I'm sure even the wolves would be creep..."

My e-mail provider kindly gave me a link a few weeks ago when this couple was slobbering over each other in public, desperately trying to get a reality TV show. Who are these tawdry people with their tawdry tawdriness?

I'm glad Willa Cather is dead and doesn't have to deal with this nonsense. I just learned that she's buried in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, where she wrote My Antonia. Her tombstone has a quote from the novel: "...that is happiness to be dissolved into something complete and great."




message 32: by Robert (new)

Robert Corbett (robcrowe00) | 169 comments There is a town in WA called Selah.


message 33: by Slowrabbit, photographic eye (new) - rated it 3 stars

Slowrabbit | 133 comments Mod
well, i wish i could say i loved it but...
for all the lovely lines and passages- and there are plenty, i felt really detached -and not in a useful way. part of it may have been just bad timing (i was in the mood for something else). i did love the near plotless, episodic nature of it. but, i didn't care for Jim very much, so having the entire thing refracted through him didn't help.

i will definitely try more Willa. a coworker suggested O'Pioneers and Song of the Lark, two of her favorite books. but this time around i had that feeling i get sometimes while reading some Steinbeck or watching certain Quentin Tarantino movies- where i'm simultaneously both really impressed and a bit bored.


message 34: by Adrian (new)

Adrian | 250 comments Slowrabbit wrote: "i will definitely try more Willa. a coworker suggested O'Pioneers and Song of the Lark, two of her favorite books ..."

Eh, is your coworker trying to kill you with that Lark novel? I like Cather's novellas & short stories. You might try the collection Youth and the Bright Medusa. (I cried when I first read "A Wagner Matinée," but it may have been because of something I ate.)

A Wagner Matinée

Cather was also a fine writer of essays & literary reviews. Here is her charming essay about going on a holiday and encountering an old woman whom she discovered was the relative of a great author: A Chance Meeting


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Death Comes for the Archbishop (other topics)
The Book of Ebenezer Le Page (other topics)