Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I now know Willa Cather

I, too, felt Jim missed out on his chance for happiness. And although Antonia's life is difficult, she exudes contentment. Yeah, Jim missed the boat. But he has his memories, real or contrived. I am glad we read this book. I had never read a book by Willa Cather before, and now that I know her, I would certainly read another. Her use of language is a real treat. Good choice.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Antonia---back where she belongs

Even though Antonia says she doesn't regret living in the Town, things really don't go too well for her there. She ends up with a baby born out of wedlock and loses the independence she had gained for herself and she has to move back home with Ambrosch and her mom. However, she still maintains her spirit and work ethic, which carries her through it all and are the two qualities Cather implies are necessary for settling and farming the barren, miserable, good-for-nothing land of Nebraska (no offense Tegan). We see though what a spirit and work ethic like Antonia's can accomplish--her farm seems to be more developed and more successful then even the long standing farm ran by Jim's American grandparents. Antonia, for instance, grew all the trees practically out of pure love and determination. She laid awake at night worrying about them and got up to water them--this shows something that goes beyond merely a good work ethic. It's her love for the land and nature and her determination to develop the land and turn it into something beautiful. At the beginning of the book, the land and weather are harsh, but at the end of the book the land is beautiful and no longer barren, and the weather is even nice enough for Jim to sleep outside. As Antonia has developed and matured, so has the land. Antonia seemed to love and care for the land right from the start, and now finally the land seems to reciprocate love and care for Antonia.

There is no question Antonia is where she belongs: in the country. There is question though whether Jim is where he belongs. We know he is in the City, is a lawyer, and is in an unhappy marriage. He seems to revive a little bit when he visits Antonia and begins to make country-like plans of hunting with her sons. I, for one, am left with the sense that Jim didn't exactly stay true to his country roots and made sort of a misstep somewhere in life. Or perhaps he would have never been able to really handle the labor and sacrifice country life requires and that is why he and Antonia could never be together. At any rate, it certainly seems that Antonia and her plain little country life stands in triumph to Jim's socially and financially successful city life.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

the hired girls

this section was slow like the first and i had to kick myself in the butt to keep reading it. it started good with tony moving into the city so her and Jim could continue there "friendship". then they started growing apart and i didn't like that.
when Jim started sneaking out to go to the dance it brought back a few memories. then he got caught and made his grandma cry it broke my heart and I'm glad i never got caught. and then when Jim kissed tony i was happy the "friendship" was kinda there again but than she only thinks of him as a good friend sucks for him but the jealous over Lena sucks for her.
well hopefully the next section will be more exciting to read.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


This part of the book drags for me. I have trouble keeping all the "girls" straight. I'm not thinking Jim is very, uh, deep. He doesn't contribute much, he just thinks a lot. I'll have to think more about Shyla's comment. So Jim is the narrator so to speak? A first hand observer. In Chapter XII, Antonia warns Jim about Lena. And he says "...she was still my Antonia!" So this story is about the romantic notion Jim has of Antonia. It isn't about her loving, it's about him loving what he thinks she is. One of the most memorable lines in the book so far, the last paragraph of Book III, Chapter I, "I begrudged the room that Jack and Otto and the Russian Peter took up in my memory, which I wanted to crowd with other things." I begrudged the room they took up in my memory. Beautiful. Another favorite, fourth paragraph, chapter III, "...was delicate torment". Reminds me of Dickinson's "I like a look of agony because I know it's true." However, the book is no less engaging and now I can finish in peace.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Begging your pardon

I'm not trying to make anybody mad here, begging your pardon and all, but I don't like Antonia (at least, not right now). Mr. Shimerda said "My Antonia". Would he speak so fondly of her now? Antonia has become more like her mother. And although we speak harshly of Mrs. Shimerda, was she always like this? Isn't she a victim too? And if she's just a __________, then why did Mr. Shimerda marry her in the first place? I mean, who's the idiot? So I have the impression Mr. Shimerda acquiesced and moved to America. What was he smokin'? And what did he contribute to the reality of prairie life? The book is a fascinating read and I'm anxious to see what happens next but who is the victim here? It's Yulka. And something I have thought about from the beginning. I know Jim was young when he came to live with his grandparents, but when does he begin to work? Everybody seems to work in this book except Jim. He was out riding around in his homemade cart carrying on with Antonia. Why wasn't he home helping his grandparents? He was living a privileged life and all he had to do was worship Antonia, observe and then write a book upon reflection. I don't know; maybe I need more roughage in my diet.

Not Impressed

Thank goodness for Shyla's comment. If it had not been for her insight I would have thought I wasted my time reading this week. First, it took place in the winter-boring. Second, Jim just goes to school, a couple of dances, and talks to all the old men in town-boring. The only interesting thing that happened was Jim graduated from high school (the umbrella was nice). We do find out that Antonia is an idiot. She knows what kind of person Cutter is and yet she wanted to go and have her fun. Well, have fun she did and now she is a single mother. And a whole chapter devouted to a play that Lena and Jim were watching-BORING! I was probably bored because I did not entirely understand what play were they watching. Were they watching The Count of Monte Cristo? Or was the actress they kept talking about the actress in The Count of Monte Cristo and is now the star of this other play? At any rate, I hope next weeks reading has more exciting things happening.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Catching Up...

I just started the book, and can't put it down, but I will stay on schedule, and not read ahead.

I love the way the book is written, I feel like I can see the prairie, the cross roads where Mr Shimerda is buried, the sunflower trail, the day it didn't just snow, it was like several feather beds being poured over them.

I loved the grandfathers prayer, the grandmothers goodness. How true and hard working Jake and Otto are. I like how Jim accepts goodness and seems surprised by the selfishness and evil. I like Antonia, i think she is trying to be what she thinks she should be to most help her family, and can be herself while in town.

Jim: lover of all things poetic

I really like what we learn about Jim in these chapters. He is certainly a flawed individual: he has an immature rebellious streak, he is pretty snobby about the other town people, and there is something dishonorable in his reaction to the whole Cutter situation–I didn’t think he should hate Antonia, even temporarily, and I thought he should have been relieved that he spared her.

We have now seen Jim in three places: the Country, the Town, and the City. Jim does okay in the Country and the City but is unhappy in the Town. Why? Because Jim is a lover of poetry and there is nothing poetic in the Town. The Town is not much to look at and in Jim’s perception is full of dispassionate people, except for the still Country-like hired girls of course. In the Country on the other hand, you’ve got poetry everywhere: in the scenery and surroundings, in life and death struggles, and in the passion of the farmers for their land and their livelihood. In the City, Jim can experience intellectual passion and he gets to study the poetry of not only poets, but also live performers, such as what he sees in the theater. His relationship with Cleric is also related to poetry–Cleric’s ability to explain poetry to him and Cleric’s own likeness to a poet ("I believe that Gaston Cleric narrowly missed being a great poet," p. 157). Thus, though it is a different kind of poetry than he found in the Country, in the City he is also surrounded by poetry.

And now, we can start to understand why he so admires Antonia and the other hired girls–because "[i]f there were no girls like them in the world, there would be no poetry." (p. 162). Antonia seems to ooze out life and feeling; to Jim, she is walking poetry. She is tragic, beautiful, independent, a product of struggle, one with nature, and the goddess of dancing. How could Jim not love her?

Monday, June 15, 2009

lets try this again

Wow this book keeps getting better in different ways. Willa is such of a deceptive writer. The way she descibe the landscape of the countryside. How there is only one tree and everyone stops to look at it.(tegan is this true? have you seen the tree?) ok i was wondering what faith they were when how the Mormon's settlers planted the sunflower as a trail and the had a bull named Brigham Young. We do find out that there baptist so that's put that question to rest.
Man the Shimerda's are a prideful bunch and I would love to knock Ambrosh down a peg or two. I'm alittle sad that they moved to the city but in the long run you know it will be better for the family. well until next week later.
I think the Shimerdas lived a middle- to upper-class life before they moved to their country. They developed a sense of entitlement that definitely didn't leave Mrs Shimerda or Ambrosch. Those two really bug me. They did nothing to ease Mr Shimerda's homesickness, nor did they try to be friendly and loving to those around them. I think all they think about is money and how to get ahead.

I'm glad that Jim's grandparents moved to town. It's what they need since they're getting to an age where it will be harder for them to get to town when they need to, as well as keep up on the farm. I am not so sure it will be the best for Jim since he won't be required to work as hard or keep as busy.

Antonia is an interesting character. She tries so hard to be tough and impenetrable, but at the end of the day she still needs to have her cry out, like we saw with Jim. She is so determined to not look like she is weak and feminine because this is what she sees as the way to earn her mom and brother's respect. I think she is acting more manly more to prove to herself and others that she is amazing that way than to actually become that way. However, I also think that she will always be resilient and comfortable with working hard because of these experiences.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

No sticking up for Mrs. Shimerda this week!!

Well, Mrs. Shimerda did bug me considerably this week. When I wrote last I hadn't read the last couple chapters where she practically just took the pot away from Grams and was prideful. But I still stuck with what I said that it was just hard times and she was adjusting. But not anymore. It's like when Heavenly Father gives you a blessing and instead of gratitude you give your own self the credit. No wonder the father did what he did. He was homesick for his friends back home. Him and Antonia and probably Yulka could have been happy here with the help of such good neighbors.

One of the things I really like about Gramps is when they did spat because Ambrosch is a very ungrateful and disrespectful neighbor, that he gave it time. He didn't try to mend it right away, he let things simmer down. I think he is a good judge of character and the best of men. His prayer was BEAUTIFUL that he gave at the services. Jim describes his grandfathers words as having a "peculiar force, they were not worn dull from constant use." I think he has charity. To give and give to a family that feels like they deserve his help and depend on him for it and never give thanks.

I too noticed like Tegan how Antonia had fallen into manly ways. I don't appreciate her very much this week. I wonder if she is as wonderful and captivating as Jim thinks she is or if it's mostly only him that is smitten with her.

I like the book a lot. But I still don't see what all the fuss is about. But the story is good. I like how Otto and Jake were true to the end. Those were the days, when people had integrity... well most people did. I like that they moved back to town. I think it was the right choice for them. I'm glad they were in a position to do that for themselves. Older folks should have comforts. Esp. those older folks.

One Hero . . . Two Idiots

I thought Jim's grandfather was the hero of the last half of Book I. I was impressed that though he seems to be more devout than any other character in the book, he has absolute tolerance and acceptance for the beliefs of the Shimerdas. He said all prayers from good people are good and I liked his response that Ambrosch's money to the priest was not something to criticize, but was something to respect because it showed he was committed to his beliefs. You also see how generous he is in helping the Shimerdas with his time and resources. I like that he went over himself to help with the horse and that there was no question Otto could use his time and the grandfather's lumber to make a coffin for poor Mr. Shimerda.

Ambrosch is an idiot. I am sick and tired of his grouchy ways. If he could open his eyes for two seconds and develop a little bit of personality, he would see that the grandfather and Jake and Otto would be more than willing to help him and give him advice. Speaking of idiots, I really hope no one is going to try and stick up for Mrs. Shimerda this week. That whole cow thing really had me outraged. Though I respect the grandfather for calling it even and think he made a good decision to be kind and to stay at peace with his neighbors even though that means he is out $15, I am still mad about the cow. I sort of wish the grandfather didn't do it because even though his principles were good, Mrs. Shimerda's principles were so bad and she got exactly what she wanted. And the grandfather giving it to her probably just reinforced the idea she already had, that she was entitled to it! But the grandfather is a good person and doesn't let himself get involved in anything petty--instead he expends his efforts to keep peace between himself and his neighbors, no matter the source of the contention. So far, I think he is the most admirable character in the book.

The Town Life

So, Grandpa deceided to move to town! What is that all about? Breaking new ground, never ending work on the farm, and harsh winters must have been too much for the old man! It only took me 100 pages to appreciate how well Willa Cather writes. She really does just draw you in and you just keep wanting to find out what happens in Jim's life next. Antonia is not even talked about very much in these chapters. I am also curious why Jim is so struck with her, I guess we don't know that part yet.

It makes me very sad that Mr. Shimerda killed himself. Why did he do that? Okay, so the book does mention that "it was homesickness that had killed Mr. Shimerda"(pg 64). But it is terrible that he would leave his family in this condition. Did he not think about the future and how Antonia would have to work like a man to fill the gap? I like how Jim points out the differences between Antonia after she starts working. All her manly habits "Antonia ate so noisily now, like a man, and she yawned often at the table and kept stretching her arms over her head, as if they ached" (pg 77). I feel bad for Jim because you know that he likes and admires Antonia and he now he has to watch her becomes someone else.

I don't like Ambrosch or Mrs. Shimerada. I was wrong last week, it is not her condition that makes her the way she is, that is her personality. Dishonest, contentious, always clucking her tounge, proud. She is horrid and I don't think she is going to get any better. I hate to say it but I guess Shyla was right! I do like the Harlings and I think alot of good things will come from this family (except for the dad who seems to think he is very important!). Can't wait to see what happens next!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Perspective

Hey guys, sorry it has taken me forever to make my first post. Life is crazy. Anyhow, I love Willa Cather. Her writing is so inspirational and creative. The story captured me instantly. Writing's like these drag you into reality and you can't escape from the story. I actually have to agree with Grandma for a change... Willa had me from the beginning of the book. It is so creative and imaginitive and these kind of books are my favorite.
I enjoy when a story is told from a certain characters perspective instead of the authors. I love how Jim decribes every moment of how he is feeling, what is happening with everyone around him. I also too wonder why he is so attached to Antonia. She is kind of a brat of her time, but in a way I can understand her pain. But I can't imagaine how it would be like moving to a foreign country where every little detail is different. Her Mom is so insane! Kind of like my own mother... Jk. And maybe we should sick the wolves on my Dad instead of him doing the same to my Aunts, lol. Some of them at least..
I can't stop reading this book, I actually had a dream about it. Good choice guys!! Sorry again it's taken me forever to write.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tecia's post..oh yea, I had the flu too (cough, cough)

I like this book too. I couldn't agree with Tay more when she talks about Cather's writing and how every word is worth reading.

I thought the intro might have been a joke too because Cather says she hadn't kept in contact with Jim because she hated his wife!! She does say this and it even got me to underline it! She says that Jim's wife like to play patroness to people of "advanced ideas and mediocre ability".

I think seeing this all from Jim's perspective is interesting. He was young to be sure, but old enough to remember the things that really had an impact him. One thing I'm still waiting for is why he likes Antonia as much as he does? They haven't gotten into her that much. They talk but, I just haven't seen it yet.

Krajieck is a jerk. And I would kick him out and not depend on him. He would make me grumpy all day long and I know I could be happier with out him constantly around. I wish they would take a deep breath, move on and accept their circumstances for what they, make the best of it. And firstly by kicking out their "friend" who is no friend. At least they have Grandma to give them good stuff and Jim to entertain their girls.

Mrs. Shimerda doesn't even bug me. Her life sucks and I think she just needs some time to adjust, accept and move on. Hopefully she will, or her attitude will make her life long and hard.

I also like how affectionately he talks of the help at his farm. On the bottom of page 35, they are descibed as jovial and working hard. "always reading to work overtime and to meet emergencies." She says it was a matter of pride "not to spare themselves" and they did nothing but work hard. If only we could all be so lucky. This reminds me a bit of Eddie I guess and that is why I was drawn to it. What a great quality and example for Jim to have.

I approve so far of this book. I'm glad Steve is in the mix and I have enjoyed everybody's comments. I think as I read more and more books, I'm starting to understand a little bit all the crap Shyla can write about for pages on end. Not that I'm any where near being a critic of anything, but I am starting to pick up on, 'that was a well written part', 'I liked that phrase' and have found myself actually marking stuff like Mom does with sticky notes. No notes in the margins yet, but maybe soon.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sorry this post is late. I got the flu. :)

I love this book. It is everything I love about Willa Cather (except the random horrible death parts - she seems to enjoy writing those). She is so directed, clear and concise with her language that I know every word she uses is on purpose and worth reading. That is an admirable trait in a writer.

For a while there I hated Mrs Shimerda. I couldn't understand her horrible attitude and treatment of everybody around her. But the more I thought about it, I began to realize that it wasn't just selfishness - it was pangs of disappointed hope, her dreams crashing down around her and she hated not being able to control the circumstances. I can understand that. Hopefully she will start to understand that lacking control of everything around her does not mean the end of the world. That would make things easier for those around her.

One thing I've noticed is that Jim's life is portrayed as beginning at the point of arriving at his grandparents' town. He alludes to previous life, but the only reality we are allowed to know is what happens from the beginning of this novel. Cather is also blatantly letting us know that the story is being told by a biased narrator. Jim obviously idolizes Antonia and his grandparents, in addition to be writing from his memory of a child's understanding and is therefore not truly trustworthy in how things went. But, then again, he's the only narrator we've got, so I guess we need to read more in-between the lines.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

To hell with Princeton. This "honorary degree" issue is beginning to give me a headache where I sit down! I have been captivated by Cather's use of language from the beginning. First paragraph "While the train flashed through never-ending miles of ripe wheat, by country towns and bright-flowered pastures and oak groves wilting in the sun, ..." "Ripe wheat", "never-ending miles" and "oak groves wilting". The imagery is captivating and creates a personal pathos for a land I have never seen. The panoramic view of the land defines its purpose. Hope is why the immigrants came. The land, so vividly painted by Cather's word choice, is really the main character in the story. Cather contrasts this hope to the harsh reality of existence that pervades the everyday life of the individuals. Cather seems to embrace this contrast with her eloquent style of depicting the details of daily living. She observes detail directly. Fourth chapter, end of 4th paragraph "It must have been the scarcity of detail in that tawny landscape that made detail so precious". I'm thinking that Eddie is thinking "mom, that's just rhetoric" (on my part). I love the book! And have from the beginning. I think there is some literary symbolism in Peter and Pavel's story. However, I will never be able to think of Peter and Pavel again without thinking of "which sister sj would have thrown to the wolves". A classic comment, classic. (I didn't say classy, I said classic). Anyway, we all know which one he would have thrown-all of them!
first for shyla who do you think it is does sadie sign her name sj? tegan thanks for picking up on that. now to the book like tegan i was confused when i first started reading the book and took me 25 pages or so to start figure it out. i didn't like the 12 pages or so of introduction it was to much. so far my fave part is when the Russian's feed the bride to the wolves. i wonder which sister i could do that with.hehe. ok i think it started alittle slow but now its getting good and i want to keep going.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The place where prayers don't help

Jim's first impression of his harsh and primitive new surroundings led him to conclude that there was only land and no country (p. 11). He did not say his prayers the first night because he felt that there, in Nebraska, "what would be would be" (p. 11). Cather does a great job at almost making the land a person, and more or less a constant danger which the residents must face and conquer. In doing so, she sets us up to admire those that will be able to conquer it--presumably, Antonia.

Jim saw that all land, no country place to be "the material out of which countries are made" (p. 11). If that is the case, then people like Jim's family as well as the Shimerdas and other immigrants are the people that made the country. Cather generally portrays a sympathy instead of hostility for the immigrant farmers and recognizes them for their efforts, courage, and determination. Even though we learn the awful facts about Pavel's past, we still respect at least Peter--not only for being a nice guy, but for his success in growing melons, cucumbers, and owning a cow. Peter and Pavel may be bad, and they have may ultimately failed, but they worked the land and at least left a house standing. We hate Krajiek of course, but we don't hate him for being a foreigner--we hate him for cheating other foreigners. I also like that Jim's grandmother felt an obligation to help the Shimerdas because they were brothers and sisters; it didn't matter where they came from (p. 51).

I like that even though Cather is writing about a time when farmer immigrants were probably poorly regarded and was perhaps writing during a time when the same feeling and prejudices probably prevailed, she doesn't carry the same blanket hostility toward the immigrants. And I also like that her main characters (Jim and the grandmother) also do not have any prejudicial hostility toward the immigrants.

It seems like one theme in this book is an individual's reaction to challenges. Antonia seems to cheerfully bear every challenge, the mother bears the challenges but is pretty grouchy and complainy about it, and the poor dad can't even seem to face the challenges.

My Thoughts

So, I am slightly confused. In the introduction the author tells us that she just took Jim's writings and made the book out of those instead of writing her own memories. What does that mean? Or is it just the early/first years that she is taking from Jim? I will be extremely disappointed if Willa Cather did not actually write the book. I do find myself wanting to keep reading though. I love seeing the relationship between Antonia and Jim. I love Antonia's enthusiasum for learning(21-22). It is a horribly bleak little world they live in. After seeing the winters here now, I can imagine that they were a hundred times worse back then. It was hard to live back then. You worked your backside off for everything. No turning on the heater or air conditioner. I like tht about the book. It is real and tells you how it really was. And, after reading the story of Peter and Parvel, I don't know wether to hate them or to feel sorry for them. I mean, what choice did they have? And yet it seemed they didn't waste any time saving themselves. I like how they are truly Christians and help take care of each other. The Shimredas are very dependent on Jim and his family. I hope their burdens will soon be eased by the building of a house and the planting of a garden. Really enjoying the book so far!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

here we go

I am joining this book club and reading this book if its stupid then there will be heck to pay. later


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Willa Cather (1873-1947)

--Grew up in Nebraska (where Tegan now lives) and she crossed six states in a covered wagon to get there.
--Oldest of seven children.
--Praised by critics for writing in plainspoken language about ordinary people.
--Graduated from the University of Nebraska.
--Won the Pulitzer Prize.
--First woman to be awarded an honorary degree from Princeton.