Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Obscure Cather

Willa Cather's collection of three stories of the West, Obscure Destinies, was published in 1932.  The first story, "Neighbor Rosicky," tells the story of the patriarch of the farm, Rosicky, who cares for his land and his family in Nebraska.  It is a simple story, but a really warmhearted one.  My favorite scene is when old man Rosicky visits his son Rudolph and his daughter-in-law Polly. Worried about how Polly, a city girl, will take to farming life, he goes over to give them his car to borrow so they can go out to a night on the town.  Rosicky takes an apron off a hook and gently pushes Polly out of the way.  Cather writes, "That kind, reassuring grip on her elbows, the old man's funny bright eyes, made Polly want to drop her head on his shoulder for a second."  Cather finds such tenderness in the smallest moments.  The second story, "Old Mrs. Harris," follows the life of Grandma Harris, who is often stoic except when she beams with love for her grandchildren.  The neighbor, Mrs. Rosen often brings over coffee cake and tries to bring Mrs. Harris out of her shell.  As Cather writes, the house in which the Harris family lived was small and "Mrs. Harris and her 'things' were almost required to be invisible."  While Mrs. Harris may not take up very much space figuratively, she doesn't need more than her grandchildren to make her "perfectly happy."  Cather writes of Grandma Harris and her grandsons, "She and the twins were the same age; they had in common all the realest and truest things."  This sentiment really reminds me of Capote's short story, "A Christmas Memory" which follows the friendship of young Buddy and his older cousin Sook.  The final story, "Two Friends" is told from the perspective of a young boy who looks up to two older men in his small town, who "led more varied lives than the other men in our town."  These stories are classic Cather - not my favorites of hers, but still worth reading. 

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