Wednesday, January 4, 2012

To Begin and End with Willa Cather

Dear Misfits,

Our December book, My Antonia by Willa Cather, ended 2011 on a very high literary note.  My Antonia truly deserves its place in American literature as “one of the finest novels of the twentieth century”.   Many critics place her firmly among such highly regarded  American authors as William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway.  The Misfits at our discussion last Wednesday certainly agree with that claim.  We rate it as one of the best novels we have read since we began our Men’s Reading Group in September, 2002.  (It is fitting that we end another year of reading with Willa Cather, the author with whom we began our Reading Group in 2002.)

I could go on for pages on why you should read My Antonia but I won’t.  I don’t think I could do justice to all that is contained in the novel and power of Cather’s story about the life of a young woman on the plains of Nebraska in the pioneer days of our nations history.  It is a classic and should be on the required reading list of all High School or College Freshman literature classes.

And now to the future:  Our fist novel of 2012 is A Canticle for Leibowitz by William M. Miller, Jr.. This is Miller's only major novel and is not simply a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel but also a multi-layered meditation on the conflict between knowledge and morality .The novel  follows a Catholic monastic order over a period of 18 centuries as it seeks to preserve the legacy of human knowledge even as mankind repeatedly destroys itself in nuclear flames.  Six centuries in the future,  the world suffers a “Flame Deluge” and mankind violently rejects all learning in a period of history called “The Simplification”.  The title character, a widowed former weapons scientist named Leibowitz, gathers followers and establishes a monastic order dedicated to preserving the remnants of  human knowledge. Leibowitz is martyred and by the 26th century is up for canonization. The world has returned to a hunter-gatherer economy, and the Catholic Church is struggling against marauding barbarians and shamans.  It is science/apocalyptic fiction at its finest.

I have [linked to] an insightful review of the novel by a Catholic professor that I found at the Ignatius Press web site.  I think makes an excellent introduction to the novel [].

But more to the future of our Reading Group:  I need some recommendations as to what you want to read/what we should read in 2012.  Please do respond.  I need and will value your input.

Finally, let me wish all of you a Blessed Christmas.  And may God bless each you and grant you great happiness and good health in the New Year. 

Misfit Buzz

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