Thursday, 19 January 2012

O PIONEERS! by Willa Cather

Fourteen days, ten flights, four continents, seven countries. The beginning of January gave me lots of time to read, and also to regret poor scheduling choices.

Let's have WHITE WHALE'S only annual airline awards!

Usually a cinch for KLM, I have to go with Indigo, a small Indian airline with these super cute retro outfits. The narrow belt is killing me.

Kenya Airways is a shoo-in here, with a two and half hour queue. Other airlines can only gape at this impressive level of incompetence. I certainly hope none can compete.

Ethiopian Airlines usually has this one in the bag, hot pink being very big with their cabin crew. However, this time it also goes to Indigo! One hostess was wearing so much red lipstick I didn't know if she wanted to eat me or nurse me. Revolting and yet titillating.

And now let us turn abruptly to Willa Cather's masterpiece of nineteenth century American life, O PIONEERS! Some people will suggest this is Cather's best work, but all this shows is what a real afflication crack smoking must be among readers of early American fiction. MY ANTONIA is much better.

This is not to say I did not enjoy O PIONEERS! I particularly like it's musical theatre title. It is set in the early days of immigration to Nebraska, and follows one particularly bright young woman as she builds a healthy farm. She however is unlucky in love, with her brothers chasing her only suitor away.

Her suitor, poor man, leaves rural Nebraska for the big city of Chicago, hoping to hit the big time as an engraver. Sadly for him, photography is invented. Here's his heartbreaking, and very modern, account of his time in the city:
Freedom so often means that one isn't needed anywhere. Here you are an individual, you have a background of your own, you would be missed. But off there in the cities there are thousands of rolling stones like me. We are all alike; we have no ties, we know nobody, we own nothing. When one of us dies, they scarcely know where to bury him. Our landlady and the delicatessen man are our mourners, and we leave nothing behind us but a frock-coat and a fiddle, or an easel, or a typewriter, or whatever tool we got our living by. All we have ever managed to do is to pay our rent, the exorbitant rent that one has to ay for a few square feet of space near the heart of things. We have no house, no place, no people of our own. We live in the streets, in the parks, in the theatres. We sit in restaurants and concert halls and look about at the hundreds of our own kind and shudder.


  1. I do hope you enjoyed your travels. Indigo's uniforms are cute. I'm yet to read a Willa Cather book. Someday, maybe..

  2. You should try Cather! She is fabulous. And it is a really unusual take on subsistence farming - a very African topic!