Five Stories by Willa Cather

Dear Reader:

In choosing how to move on after Trollope, I picked a few things from my shelves: Willa Cather’s #124 Five Stories (I somehow missed listing it when I started my list) and #3 Death Comes to the Archbishop; #125 de Balzac Pere Goriot. I’ve been in the mood for classics (although I just got a PILE of books from the library today which includes a real mix of stuff).  I decided to read Five Stories because I liked the idea of something I could do in shorter bites (after those 500 pages).

The Enchanted Bluff by Willa Cather

A group of teenage boys are on an island in a Nebraska river at around the turn of the (last – 19th-20th) century.  It is late summer, school starts soon and the corn is brown, but it is still warm enough to swim over and spend the night.  Cather paints such a detailed, lovely image of the landscape.  For a moment I was thinking, oh that’s right, she was trained as a painter, but then I remembered, no, that was Elizabeth Bowen.  So, they very much have that in common, a talent for painting word images of the countryside.

This is a 1956 Vintage edition (Cather died in 1947).

The story describes their night together, the stories they tell each other of their dreams of travel and, in particular, climbing an enchanted bluff that Southwestern Native Americans lived on.  It was a rocky outcropping that no one could climb as it was sheer cliff for 200-300 feet.  The Indians used a rope ladder to climb it.  And they could prevent people from attacking them easily.  Unfortunately, the story that the boys tell is of one attack where the ladder was destroyed, leaving many people behind up above with no way to get down.  Many starved.  The boys dream of climbing there by using a rocket to get a rope up.  It is a bittersweet moment as they are all poised on the point of becoming adults and going their own ways.  And Cather tells us what became of them.  It is a lovely, sad story of that transitional time in everyone’s life.

Happy Reading!  Ruby

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