Monday, May 15, 2006

If You Liked My Antonia, or If You Just Want to Read Something Else About the Frontier...

Originally uploaded by barbfecteau.
I like a good frontier story. I was trained in this by the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. These have a reputation as books for little kids (and I have to admit that I have ripped through Little House in the Big Woods in about 45 minutes) but they are worth reading as a teenager or adult. I would start with By the Shores of Silver Lake.
The Long Winter is downright terrifying. It is the book that I perversely pick up every time there is a snow day in Beverly. Little Town on the Prairie shows that Mean Girls aren’t endemic to the twentieth century. And These Happy Golden Years has an crazy woman with a knife, a little romance and (I hope I am not giving anything away) a wedding. The First Four Years has always been a bit of a let down to me, so I recommend going back to the little kid books because you aren’t going to want to say goodbye to Laura right away.

If you feel you are just too mature for Wilder, you might find these books a litle…well…wilder.

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus is written in the voice of a woman sent by her family to an insane asylum for being “difficult”. She is sent out by the US government as part of a plan to gift Cheyenne warriors with white brides. It’s a long story – and a very exciting one – so just take my word for it. Warning – you will cry like a baby and scream out loud while reading this. Its not for the faint of heart.

Also not for the faint of heart (the size of it alone will send many fleeing for the hills) is Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. This enormous novel of the west is one of my all time favorite books that I have read only once. I’d pick it up again, but who has the time? There is also an excellent miniseries that is a mere 8 hours long that you might wish to view. It is responsible for my deep and abiding love for Robert Duvall. It is essentially the story of a cattle drive. But there are so many different characters and layers that you can hardly distill it down to a one paragraph description.

The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas is another frontier story that I enjoyed. Once again it is written in the form of a journal. I am sucker for books that are written in the form of journals. I like the feeling of reading someone’s innermost thoughts. Even if they are a made up person. Actually, I prefer it. Who wants to read a real person’s innermost thoughts? Ew. Mattie is surprised to get a marriage proposal from Luke Spenser, the most desirable man in her town. He takes her out west and she tries to build a life there. many things happen that you are not even going to believe and one of the things that happens to a neighbor is so vividly horrifying that it still sometimes makes me queasy to think about it. Perhaps I shouldn’t recommend this after all. Well, too late. Anyway, I am kind of a wimp about these things. I am sure it won’t emotionally scar you the way it did me. Moving on…

Psst…Down here, away from the English teachers. They are crazy with the pronunciation of “Ann-toe-NEE-yah”. Just let them have their way. According to my Aunt Rosie (or if you prefer Rosatchka – her Bohemian name) the Bohemians pronounce the name “ANN-tony-uh”. It still has the long e like Cather explains, but the last three syllables are smooshed together so they almost sound like two. It has the same rhythm as Abraham or Anthony or Apple juice. Of course if the way the majority of reader (at least those without Bohemian grandparents) want to pronounce it, so be it. But you didn't hear it from me.

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