Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Willa Cather Project.

On Saturday, I got into a discussion on twitter about reading the major or complete works of certain authors with a few bloggers. We discussed some of the big names and the authors we would most like to read. Authors like Steinbeck, Dickens, Hardy, James, and more all came to mind. We all became pretty inspired and two bloggers have already posted away (you can see Adam's here-he chose Steinbeck, O's is here-she chose Trollope).

I've always thought that the most logical step for me after my 250 project would be to go back and read the complete works of an author. I am close with a few-Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontes-but I wanted to push myself by reading an author I don't know a lot about. This project will serve to educate me about that writer.

After thinking it over, I settled on Willa Cather. We have had a rocky history. I hated her novel, My Antonia, when I read it as a high school freshman (now I love it. It happens, you know?). When I took a risk and read O Pioneers! in the first year of my 250 Project, I fell madly in love. So, I've decided that Willa Cather will be my choice for a Major Works/Complete Works Project.

The goal is to read her work in order of publication. The one exception is My Antonia, since I just finished it (I will be rereading O Pioneers!....because I can). If I cannot find a copy of the work, I will simply skip it and move on (I already own all of her novels, save one, so I am more concerned with finding her short stories and essays). I'm not giving myself a goal date for this project. My hope is to finish when I feel so inspired, and to get to know a writer I don't know much about.

The List:
  • April Twilights (poetry) 1903
  • The Troll Garden (short stories) 1905
    • "Flavia and Her Artists"
    • "The Sculptor's Funeral"
    • "A Death in the Desert"
    • "The Garden Lodge"
    • "The Marriage of Phaedra"
    • "A Wagner Matinee"
    • "Paul's Case" 
  • Alexander's Bridge (novel) 1912
  • O Pioneers! (novel) 1913
  • The Song of the Lark (novel) 1915
  • My Antonia (novel) 1918
  • Youth and the Bright Medusa (short stories) 1920
    • ***contains 4 of the stories also in The Troll Garden. These are marked with an asterisk
    • "Coming, Eden Bower"
    • "The Diamond Mine"
    • "A Gold Slipper"
    • "Scandal"
    • *"Paul's Case"
    • *"A Wagner Matinee"
    • *"The Sculptor's Funeral"
    • *"A Death in the Desert" 
  • One of Ours (novel) 1922
  • A Lost Lady (novel) 1923
  • The Professor's House (novel) 1925
  • My Mortal Enemy (novel) 1926
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop (novel) 1927
  • Shadows on the Rock (novel) 1931
  • Obscure Destinies (short stories) 1932
    • "Neighbor Rosicky"
    • "Old Mrs. Harris"
    • "Two Friends" 
  • Lucy Gayheart (novel) 1935
  • Not Under Forty (essays) 1936
  • Sapphira and the Slave Girl (novel) 1940
  • The Old Beauty and Others (short stories) 1948
    • "The Old Beauty"
    • "The Best Years"
    • "Before Breakfast" 
  • Willa Cather: On Writing (essays) 1949
  • Five Stories (short stories) 1956
    • ***Some stories were previously published. These are marked with an asterisk
    • "The Enchanted Bluff"
    • "Tom Outland's Story"
    • *"Neighbor Rosicky"
    • *"The Best Years"
    • *"Paul's Case"
  • Selected Letters from Willa Cather
  •  I am also considering a few biographies, but haven't settled on one just yet. Anyone have some recommendations?
I'm not positive that I have all the short stories listed, but I will add as I find/discover other stories. I'm really excited about this project!

So here's a question, if you were to read any classic author's works, from beginning to end, who would it be and why?


  1. I think that is a great idea. In my case, I would choose to read Edgar Alan Poe's complete literature for now. Even I did read some of his works previously, I would like to learn about his life and other works in literature.

    1. I'm reading through the complete Stories & Poems of E.A. Poe right now! It's not as structured as my John Steinbeck project, but it has been fun nonetheless.. :)

    2. Poe is another writer I considered, but I really wanted to start with a woman writer for whatever reason. :) But Poe is someone that I will definitely tackle at some point!

  2. Yes! I Love Cather - I can't wait for you to get to A Lost Lady. And one of my favorite short stories of all-time, from any writer, is "Paul's Case."

    Looking forward to following along with you on this journey - Cather will most likely be next for me, after I finish Steinbeck (Whenever that happens!).

    1. I'm excited for that novel! I think you talked about it a year or so ago and I purchased it then. :) I actually talked to Matt about my project and he dared me to try and finish it this year...I do love a challenge. ;)

      I'd like to tackle Steinbeck eventually. I haven't read The Grapes of Wrath OR East of Eden, so I need to get cracking.

      I wanted to ask you, do you know much about the "Library of America" editions? I order the first (of three) of Cather's complete works, and I've never purchased one of those editions before...

    2. All I know about them is that they usually have a few works in each edition, which is not something I like (I'm reading the Complete Poe that way, because almost all of his work are short, but I really don't like buying multiple-novels in a single binding).

      East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath are both incredible. Oh, man - get on it! :)

  3. I like Cather and luckily, a lot of her work is on-line at Project Gutenburg and elsewhere. I think this will be a fun project for you!

    1. I think Bartleby has some of her short stories, too - in fact, I know that "Paul's Case" is there, as I just recently sent it to a couple of other folks. :)

    2. I did look on PG and found a few things!

      Thanks for the suggestions!

  4. I have lots of authors who I plan to read their back lists eventually, but the contemporary ones usually don't have a ton of titles to their name. ;)

    1. Lol. I KNOW! It's a bit intimidating to look at back lists...I need more time!

  5. I'm midway through reading Willa Cather chronologically and have really enjoyed the experience so far. Next up for me is The Professor's House, which I've heard a lot of good things about.

    I've read most of Austen (just not her juvenilia or incomplete works) and I'd toss around the idea of reading all of Tolstoy's fiction if it weren't for the fact that he was so stinking prolific. I've read his 2 biggies, but still, what a list.

    1. I enjoyed her juvenilia & unfinished works quite a bit. Sanditon and The Watsons would have both been brilliant, I think, had she been able to finish them!

    2. All I have left for Austen is The Watsons, Sanditon, her juvenilia, and her letters, so I'm savoring them a bit. :)

  6. You've read the same two Cather I have, although I don't remember them at all! I'll have to return to them someday just to remedy that.

    I saw your conversation on Twitter the other night and have been thinking ever since about who I would pick if I were to do such a project. Faulkner seems the most logical choice as I haven't read anything by him, and was already thinking I'd start with some of his earlier works. But there's also Tolstoy--I've been reading good things lately about some of his less well known novels. Or Hardy, although I've already read one of his novels. Or I could try for a more contemporary author--I've only read one novel by Roberto Bolaño, but I kinda want to read everything else he's written....so many choices! I look forward to following along with your project.

    1. Thomas Hardy would be a brilliant choice! As would Faulkner. I think you'd have a great time with either.

    2. I do love Hardy...he's on my "Eventually" list as well. :) So is Faulkner. In fact, let's add everyone. ;)

  7. I love this idea! I've had the same reaction to Cather's work, loved O Pioneers, really didn't like My Antonia. I have to think hard about what author I would choose for this. I've read all of Austen and almost all of Shakespeare. I've been slowly working my way through all of Hemingway, Steinbeck and Faulkner. Hmmm, I think I'll have to choose one for the year.

    1. :) This project is contagious, isn't it?

      I'm pretty close to completing Shakespeare, so perhaps I can "knock him out" soon as well.

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  9. I've read all of Austen's novels, plus some of her shorter works, though not all the juvenilia or letters -- I'll get to them someday. I am slowly trying to finish all the major works of Dickens (three left!) but I don't know if I'll get to the Christmas books and shorter works, or the nonfiction.

    And don't get me started on Trollope. . . . I have a huge collection of his books on the TBR shelf. I'm working on the last of the Barset Chronicles, but then I'll have at least FORTY more of his works to read!! But I intend to do it.

    And then there's Wharton, and Zola. . . the TBR list never ends, does it?

  10. I started reading Henry James in chronological order (but haven't been very good about keeping track of my progress). It's at the same time wonderful and weird to be able to trace the evolution of a writer's style like that (especially if they got considerably better at it over time, which HJ did). I'd like to do this with George Eliot and Edith Wharton as well. And possibly Dostoevsky.

  11. Ohh, I like this. I stalked, er, followed your discussion on twitter that day, and I've been toying with the idea of starting a similar project (about the Brontës) since.

    Willa Cather is an author I had not even heard about before Saturday, and now I've added a few of her works to my TBR list. Such is the beauty (some would say downside) of readathons- your shelves inevitably come to house several new books. :D

  12. Reading an author chronologically is a fine idea. No knock on Wharton, Cather, Faulkner, Hemingway et. al.,but why nor sample some contemporary classics (not on the list of 250)? I am thinking of, say, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and Joyce Carol Oates. Start anywhere. Good luck, and stick with your extraordinary blog!

    1. I think the point is to choose whomever you are personally interested in reading more of - so for those out there who want to pursue Bellow, well, they can. :)

  13. When I was in high school, Cather was my favorite author even though I had only read three or four of her novels. I must have read My Antonia 5 or 6 times though. And now, I haven't read her for years. I really need to change that and read more of her works. She's one of the few American authors that I really enjoy.

  14. Wow! I don't think I realized how prolific Cather was! I've read and LOVED three of her books: My Antonia, O Pioneers!, and The Professor's House. If I picked an author and read all of his/her works, it would probably be Cather. :)

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  16. A worthy goal indeed! If there is ever anything that the Willa Cather Foundation can assist you with, we'd be happy to! We also have a new virtual tour of Willa Cather's Red Cloud, which gives you a glimpse into her home town -- www.virtualcather.org