Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why I Love My Antonia

As autumn approaches, I've started my AP students on my favorite novel of all time, My Antonia by Willa Cather. I posted this to our class blog for the students to comment about their favorite book or what they're enjoying about Antonia. I thought you all might like to know what I wrote as well--seeing as I can't find time to post anything these days.

Antonia introduced herself to me via English 3500: American Literature 1800-1900. "Dr. B" wasn't a great professor, but he had impeccable taste in literature. Antonia is proof of that. Ever since that first read during a fall semester, I've been smitten.

When people hear I teach English and want a book recommendation--I count on Antonia. She never disappoints. She spends autumn days cradled in my hand on the back lawn. She spent two semesters in a carefully guarded backpack pocket--that school year she was necessary as ink. In the stark brilliance of winter, I slip her from the bookshelf and remember the sunflowers. If my writing feels uninspired or lackluster, I think of Willa writing My Antonia, missing her Nebraska so far away. I read Antonia and feel calm knowing that somewhere in the middle of nowhere, prairie grasses are growing to the edge of the cottonwood trees.

In the quiet moments I ache for childhood, its sepia tones and laughter, I feel closest to Jim. When politics frustrate or I watch too much of the evening news, I read about America through Jim's lens--a land resonating with its own potential. Idealistic? Perhaps. But Jim and I were always burdened by an unrealistic hope.

I once lent my one and only copy of Antonia to a niece. I missed it terribly. Soon I found myself buying random editions at book stores thrift shops, if only to see Antonia's eye watch over me from the bookshelf while I wandered through my days.

Cicero once said, "a room without books is like a body without a soul." I guess this comes closest to explaining my obsession with My Antonia. Antonia is one of those books that stayed until I could no longer separate myself from it. My reading life before her lay incomplete, an empty vessel.

Some books fade from our consciousness, some books are chased away. And others curl and diffuse within us, as a drop of ink in water. My Antonia is one of these books. I am forever changed having read it.

What about you? Which books do you love and why? I love to hear all you have to say...and books are a favorite topic of mine.


Mrs. Bennett said...

I love My Antonia too. I love Willa Cather, she is a wonderful author. I also love John Steinbeck - especailly his East of Eden. I don't know if I have a favorite book - just many favorites. "Their Eyes were Watching God" "Pride and Prejudice" - I love Amy Tan, Pearl S Buck. I love anything that makes me cry or laugh out loud. Books are great, aren't they?

The Rookie said...

I love many of these also, Mrs. Bennett. East of Eden left me crying. Pride and Prejudice set my standards far too high. I love that your blog is now Mrs. Bennett! Why not, eh?!

Amy Tan melts me. I haven't read any Pearl S. Buck, she's on my list, but isn't everything on my list? Same goes for Their Eyes were Watching God.

Blackeyedsue said...

Oh, some of my favorites are by Steinbeck, Buck and Austen.

On my header one of my favorite quotes is by Willa Cather.

Bec said...

Hmm... I shall have to look out for it! I love books along the 'classics' line.

Thank you for the link by the way, always nice to know who's reading. :)

Stine said...

I'm in the middle of the 3rd Harry Potter book. I have reached "the zone".

I know no other books at this present time.