Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Red Cloud, Nebraska

Pop 1000 more or less (no stop signs - none. one bar/restaurant)

During our stay in Kearney we took a 150 mile round trip to Red Cloud, the town that produced Willa Cather. I thought it was a rather depressing rat hole of a small town. The Dentist, who visited earlier,  disagreed, finding it to be a place where he could live happily ever after. Willa Cather apparently agreed with me. As soon as she delivered the high school graduation oration below, she fled as fast and far as she could from Red Cloud, then spent the rest of her life writing about it.

Cather had an amazing intellect, which becomes more apparent when you see all the books, articles and short stories she wrote, laid end to end around the room on bookshelves. While we were there, Lorna watched a video on Cather, which I listened to as I perused the books. No Cather, but I came away with Bound for Glory, the autobiography of Woody Guthrie and a copy of Kooser's The Poetry Home Repair Manual. Look out Michael, I'm coming after you! If you chose to read the following, keep in mind it was written in 1890 by a young lady, one of three people in her graduating class, living out in the middle of nowhere. She may have been right or wrong, but then think about what you were capable of writing when you were 18 years old.


"All human history is a record of an emigration, an exodus from barbarism to civilization; from the very outset of this pilgrimage of humanity, superstition and investigation have been contending for mastery. Since investigation first led man forth on that great search for truth which has prompted all his progress, superstition, the stern Pharoah of his former bondage, has followed him, retarding every step of advancement.

Then began a conquest which will end only with time, for it is only the warfare between radicalism and conservatism, truth and error, which underlies every man's life and happiness. The Ancient orientals were highly civilized people but were dreamers and theorists who delved into the mystical and metaphysical, leaving the more practical questions remain unanswered, and were subjected to the evils of tyranny and priestcraft. Those sacred books of the east we today regard as half divine. We are not apt to think as we read those magnificent flights of metaphor that the masses of people who read and believed them knew nothing of figures. It is the confounding of the literal and the figurative that has made atheists and fanatics throughout the ages.

All races have worshipped nature, the ruder as the cause, the more enlightened as the effect of one grand cause. Worship as defined by Carlyle is unmeasured wonder, but there are two kinds of wonder, that born of fear and that of admiration; slavish fear is never reverence....."
Much more

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

with some conspicuous exceptions (moby dick, the great gatsby), Cather wrote the most heartbreakingly perfect novels in the history of America.

mw

Gunnar Berg said...

Yep.

That is why we spent the day paying homage.

Moby Dick? Moby Dick is a brutal novel to labor through. Just because it was first does not necessarily mean it is good, he said sacrilegiously.

Anonymous said...

yeah, well, Moby Dick is the Moby Dick of all novels.

mw

Gunnar Berg said...

THAT is well put.