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Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Professor's House: Book #7 Intro

First edition (pic from The Manhattan Rare Book Company)
THE CHALLENGE
Read all 12 of Willa Cather's novels in chronological order of publication, one each month, throughout 2012. For details about the challenge click here.

THIS MONTH'S NOVEL
Our seventh novel of the challenge is The Professor's House. Read it over the next few weeks and we'll start our conversation about it on Monday, July 23rd. (This is the 4th, not 3rd, Monday of the month this time around. With the 1st falling on a Sunday and Independence Day on the 4th, I thought an extra week seemed warranted.)

About The Professor's House:
  • Cather started writing it in November 1923 after returning home from a six month visit to friends in France. She finished it in late 1924.
  • Serialized in Collier's beginning in June 1925.
  • Published in book form by Knopf in September 1925.
  • 20,000 copies were printed and the book sold for $2. The first edition pictured here is currently selling for $2,000.
From the Vintage Classics paperback:
A study in emotional dislocation and renewal--Professor Godfrey St. Peter, a man in his 50's, has achieved what would seem to be remarkable success. When called on to move to a more comfortable home, something in him rebels.

RESOURCES
  • Sometimes difficult to find new, but I've been noticing copies available in used bookstores and, of course, in libraries.
  • Support the Willa Cather Foundation and order it online here.
  • Read it online via Project Gutenberg of Australia here.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT 
The Professor's House is a novel that features a story within a story. Unlike O Pioneers! where two short stories were "mashed up" into one novel or My Antonia which is a series of stories within a narrative framework, Cather explained in 1938 that she had been experimenting with something different in this novel:
Cather with her nieces, July 1924 (Willa Cather Archive)
Just before I began the book I had seen, in Paris, an exhibition of old and modern Dutch paintings. In many of them the scene presented was a living-room warmly furnished, or a kitchen full of food and coppers. But in most of the interiors, whether drawing-room or kitchen, there was a square window, open, through which one saw the masts of ships, or a stretch of grey. The feeling of the sea that one got through those square windows was remarkable, and gave me a sense of the fleets of Dutch ships that ply quietly on all the waters of the globe—to Java, etc.
In my book I tried to make Professor St. Peter's house rather overcrowded and stuffy with new things; American proprieties, clothes, furs, petty ambitions, quivering jealousies—until one got rather stifled. Then I wanted to open the square window and let in the fresh air that blew off the Blue Mesa, and the fine disregard of trivialities which was in Tom Outland's face and in his behaviour. (from Willa Cather On Writing, 31-32)
How does this experiment influence you as a reader? What does it make you feel? Does it seem organic to the story or artificial?

MARK YOUR CALENDAR
I'll share my thoughts on reading The Professor's House in a new post on Monday, July 23rd. At that time let's start our conversation--simply post your thoughts about the novel in the comments section of that post so we can have everyone's thoughts in once place.

Happy Reading!

4 comments:

  1. My favorite Cather novel, and one of my favorite novels of all time. Can't wait to see what everyone thinks.

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    1. Wow, Thomas, I don't think I've come across anyone who claims this as their favorite Cather novel, let alone one of their favorite novels of all time. I can't wait to hear what YOU have to say about it!

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  2. sounds incredible!! adding it to my must-read list... :)

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    Replies
    1. It's a beautiful novel, Cayt. I was in my mid-twenties the first time I read it and now in my mid-forties I'm sure it will speak to me in a very different way.

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