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Monday, June 30, 2014

The Professor's House (1925) by Willa Cather

Willa Cather: Only one novel on the 1001 Books list? Seriously?

Book Review
The Professor's House (1925)
by Willa Cather
University of Nebraska Press, Scholary Edition (2002)
Historical Essay by James Woodress
Explanatory notes by James Woodress with Karl A. Ronning
Textual Editing by Frederick M. Link

  I was half-way through this excellent edition of The Professor's House when I stopped and said to myself, "Wait, this is MID career Willa Cather, what earlier Cather titles have I missed and what are the other Cather novels on the 1001 Books list?"  So I goes to my copy of 1001 Books, look up Cather in the author index and BOOOM:  THE PROFESSOR'S HOUSE IS THE ONLY WILLA CATHER TITLE IN THE ENTIRE LIST OF 1001 BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE.

  Are you kidding me?  Only ONE Willa Cather novel?  D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf each have like, six titles a piece.  I feel like every undergraduate in America has read O Pioneers and 50% have read My Antonia.  If you look at the other American representative on the 1001 Books list you've got lesser lights like Theodore Dreiser, later period Upton Sinclair, Jack London and Edgar Burroughs and equivalent level authors like Gertrude Stein, later period Henry James and Edith Wharton.  Edith Wharton has like, three or four titles. Jack London has two for Pete's sake.  And Cather only gets one single book?  It is a travesty- the first obvious travesty/sham I've come across during this project.

   I guess The Professor's House made it because it has a controversial book within a book format, similar to that of a sonata, according to the author herself.  The accompanying historical essay makes clear the separate development of the middle of the book, which concerns the discovery of the ancient Anasazi civilization by a pair of rail road workers/cattle men in rural New Mexico  and the bracketing start and finish, which deal with events decades later and mostly revolve around a college professor going through some kind of mid-life crisis (Trigger warning: there is a suicide attempt late in the book.)

  I can hardly believe that this is the ONLY Willa Cather novel in the 1001 Books List.  I don't see how you give Wharton four or five books and Cather only one.  I just don't get it.  That decision does not make sense, unless you hate America.

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