23 July 2014

Jane Austen or Willa Cather?



Anonymous said...

Both. :)

By the way, I have finally read Sense and Sensibility and await Shadow on the Rocks in the mail as I write.


Clothilde said...

What is there to discuss? Jane Austen was a master of portraying human nature, relationships, and interactions both comic and tragic amidst the settings of family and community. She refrained from descending into caricature or sentimentality, while at the same time breathing life into characters with whom we are all familiar in our own lives. Her plots are still recycled today because few have the originality to better them. Her skill at depicting courtship and the intricacies of relationships between men and women is unparalleled.

Willa Cather had some mildly interesting depictions of immigrants and American life in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

There, discussed. Was there any doubt?

Long-Skirts said...

Willa Cather!! Shadow on the Rocks is an excellent story about Catholics in Canada! Enjoy!!

X said...

"Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."
"It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death."

Mark Twain on Jane Austen

Pete said...

As I have blogged, "Not fair!"

Both...we are a "both/and" church after all. I think the kids need to read Austin to regain a sense of propriety and decency.

I highly recommend the bio of the actual Abp. Lamy of Santa Fe. It is a great work with immense research behind it. Readers will recognize many of the fictional characters in Cather's book. It was written in the 70s. Paul Horgan, "Lamy of Santa Fe". It is hard to find. Google books has it.

Timbro3000 said...

Oooh, tough. This is like Bob Dylan v. the Beatles. I think it's obvious who is whom. And Cather wins.

Methodist Jim said...

Seriously questioning the last three letters of your self-ascribed monicker.

Anonymous said...


Seriously, I once thought about reading both authors as a Lenten sacrifice, but my spiritual advisor told me that would be tantamount to the sin of scrupulosity.

Just sayin'


Former SLPS Parent

Clothilde said...

Anyone unable to enjoy Jane Austen is either poorly educated, or pusillanimous, or both.

As for Mark Twain, I am not inclined to heed the literary opinions of a feminist agnostic Freemason who supported the French and Russian revolutions and had this to say about Christianity:

"There is one notable thing about our Christianity: bad, bloody, merciless, money-grabbing, and predatory as it is—in our country particularly and in all other Christian countries in a somewhat modified degree—it is still a hundred times better than the Christianity of the Bible, with its prodigious crime—the invention of Hell. Measured by our Christianity of to-day, bad as it is, hypocritical as it is, empty and hollow as it is, neither the Deity nor his Son is a Christian, nor qualified for that moderately high place. Ours is a terrible religion. The fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilled."

thetimman said...



And, great name.

As for the comparison, for me, it is really tough to choose. Willa Cather strikes deep, whereas Austen, for all her wit and the intelligence of her writings, seems to focus on the surface or details of things.

Clothilde, give Cather more of a reading before so quickly dismissing her.

Clothilde said...


I've read *Death Comes for the Archbishop* and *My Antonia,* and I'm not seeing the depth. In *My Antonia* in particular, Antonia's most dramatic and inexplicable actions occur off-stage, so to speak, and are only related to the main narrator after the fact and secondhand. It would be similar to Bilbo writing a letter to old Gaffer Gamgee about how Sam helped Frodo destroy the ring. All the dramatic energy is lost. *Death Comes* reads like a glorified and uncensored Mary Fabyan Windeatt for adults.

That said, I'd be willing to take a literature class on what I'm missing--I'm just not likely to Cather more opportunities in the near future.

X said...

Clothilde, if you feel comfortable dismissing Mark Twain as poorly educated, or pusillanimous it's more than I could dare. What was it Alexander Pope said? Something about ... where angels fear to tread.
Twain was a vehement anti-imperialist and as such he did support the 1905 Russian revolution, as did Chesterton.
He also spoke out against the ungodly massacre of Catholic Phillopinos by our country when so many christians were silent. I have never heard the number of Phillipino civilian deaths put at less than 200,000. In the Phillipines its generally accepted to be a million.
If you have not read Twains final work, Joan of Arc, you really should not comment on his Christianity.
In the vast expanse of eternity, we are what we become.

Clothilde said...

I did not comment on Twain's Christianity--he did. Those were Twain's own words to which Mr. X objects, and I can find others as objectionable.

I'm not sure what the 1905 Russian Revolution, Chesterton, and the death toll of Filipinos in the Philippine-American war have to do with Twain's views on Christianity, unless it's Mr. X's intention to imply that Twain witnessed Christians doing things he didn't like, and is therefore justified in reviling Christianity. In that case, I can see why Mr. X admires Twain, as they share a similarly logical thought process. Perhaps Chesterton is thrown in as evidence that not all admired Christian writers ended as they began? To support which argument, Mr. X is offering Twain's book on St. Joan of Arc as evidence that Twain had evolved in his views by the end of his writing career, and, like Chesterton, had become a staunch defender of orthodox Christianity?

As it happens, I've read *Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc* twice, and its most salient feature has always seemed to me to be its total disregard of St. Joan's religious motives. Twain's primary purpose was to portray a pure young woman who did something extraordinary by means of her unique personality, while downplaying St. Joan's devotion to the Church and conviction that she had been given a divine mission. The book was his last novel, but not his last work. Later works, such as the short story "The Mysterious Stranger," I find much more revealing of his true thoughts on God, religion, and man's place in the world. Contrary to what Mr. X seems to imply, Twain's hatred of Christianity, his nihilism, and his rejection of God only intensified as he grew older.

I feel very comfortable accusing Twain of pusillanimity at the very least, and to those angels who fear to do likewise, I level the same accusation also.

Sharon said...

Methodist Jim and Former SLPS Parent:

I suppose I can forgive you for making fun of Austen because it is simply a case of pearls before (male chauvinist) swine. (Sorry, "X", but I love Austen -- I am a woman, after all!)

However, it is obvious that neither of you know a thing about Cather or her writing if you consider her an author of "chick lit." So you have no business offering any opinion on this subject.

And, timbro, how can you possibly compare these authors to either Dylan or the Beatles! These women know how to write far better than either of those men (and could probably sing better than Dylan, too!). ;-)

Sorry, timman, I can't help you choose between them. All I know is that when I read Austen and Cather, I can picture the scenes and characters' lives so well that I want to be part of them. Can't the answer be "Both"?

Elizabeth said...

@Sharon: Ditto!