Monday, January 6, 2014

#6: Cather & Austen

I've been rereading Jane Austen and Willa Cather over the past few months. Their works are free on my cell phone book app, and it's easier to carry my cell rather than a book in my already overloaded bag. Plus, if I wake up in the middle of the night and need to read, I can do so without turning on the light.

What I've been fascinated (this time around) with in their novels is how innocuous they seem on the surface, but how many dangerous themes lie beneath. Austen's Persuasion and Mansfield Park are perhaps my favorite. In Persuasion, a fading, unmarried beauty must face the fact that she rejected a man because she is too easily persuaded to do so. In Mansfield Park, a (frankly, sometimes annoying) weakling controls the destiny of an entire family. I'm reading Cather's O Pioneers! right now, and the entire book seems so blithe and light about a farm woman's journey, until sexuality destroys the veneer.

How do they do it? I know what they do, but how are the descriptions and dialogues still so fascinating decades (for Austen, centuries) later? How can a contemporary author even hope to live up to their bar?

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