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The Song of the Lark di Willa Cather
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The Song of the Lark (originale 1915; edizione 1983)

di Willa Cather (Autore), Doris Grumbach (Prefazione)

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1,737477,759 (3.88)311
Thea Kronberg has a voice that can call down angels and the soul of a Colorado pioneer girl. But as she develops her talents and devotes herself to the life of an artist, she must consider the cost of the creative path she follows.
Utente:nicholasjjordan
Titolo:The Song of the Lark
Autori:Willa Cather (Autore)
Altri autori:Doris Grumbach (Prefazione)
Info:Mariner Books (1983), Edition: Reprint, 456 pages
Collezioni:La tua biblioteca
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Etichette:Nessuno

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The Song of the Lark di Willa Cather (1915)

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I’m going to go out on a limb and say this was the best novel of 1915. When I told my brother I was reading The Song of The Lark, he said he had read it too, after he had read a mention of it in an article by Arlene Croce saying that it was one of the only novels about the development of a young girl into an artist. I was curious exactly what kind of zingy one-liner had entranced my brother into reading this book, so I looked up what Croce said specifically, and it was in a review of the dancer Suzanne Farrell’s autobiography. “Holding On to the Air isn’t really the inside story of Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine. The real inside story would take a writer of Willa Cather’s stature to deal with. In The Song of the Lark, Cather’s novel about a girl from a prairie town who becomes a great Wagnerian soprano, we discover the true dimensions of a life lived for art.” I do wish that I got to read more often about a girl developing into a great artist. In addition, the main character was a florid example of Enneagram Type Four, my favorite type, which I just loved.

The protagonist, Thea, is a Scandinavian-American girl living in a no-account town in Colorado. She has always felt that she is different from everyone else, and is fiercely sensitive and beset by envy. She is taking piano lessons from a decrepit alcoholic who was once a brilliant pianist, and it is understood that when she is grown she can make her living as a piano teacher herself. The town doctor is her closest friend and confidant. There’s a freight train conductor, Ray, who is in love with her even though she’s only eleven. Cather manages to convey this as sort of sweet but I still couldn’t help reading it as creepy. However, Ray dies before he can get his hands on Thea, and he leaves her some money which allows her to go to Chicago at the age of seventeen to study piano.

Always in her heart she’s thought of herself as a singer, but she’s too independent-minded and it’s too precious for her to discuss it. However, when her piano instructor finally hears her sing, he sets her on another path.

Although Thea is very single-minded about her art, she does fall in love at one point with a rich young man. Unfortunately, he’s a louse who doesn’t tell her until after he’s proposed and they’ve gone away together that he’s already married and can’t get a divorce. (His wife “goes mad” and is put in the asylum. Did she have syphilis or was that in another book of 1915?) Willa Cather writes about this guy like she likes him, but I don’t. Anyway, the rich beau does remain very loyal to Thea, and so does her doctor friend. I do get the impression that Cather finds it hard to take romantic love between a woman and a man very seriously.

One thing that’s really notable about this book is how not-racist it is, compared to most of the books of 1915. As a girl, Thea likes to hang out with the Mexicans who live in her town, especially Spanish Johnny and the other musicians. These characters and their music are described with seriousness, individuality, and respect. (I don’t think she achieved this high standard in all her books, though. I’m not looking forward to Sapphira and the Slave Girl, Cather’s last novel, but maybe by 2040 I’ll be too old and decrepit to review books.) Anyway, Cather’s descriptions overall are marvelous. They have a poignant quality, making me feel as if she’s depicting my own self, when nothing could be farther from the truth.

What I remember best about this book:

“But you see, when I set out from Moonstone [her hometown] with you, I had a rich, romantic past. I had lived a long, eventful life, and an artist’s life, every hour of it. Wagner says, in his most beautiful opera, that art is only a way of remembering youth. And the older we grow the more precious it seems to us, and the more richly we can present that memory. When we’ve got it all out,—the last, the finest thrill of it, the brightest hope of it,” she lifted her hand above her head and dropped it,—“then we stop. We do nothing but repeat after that. The stream has reached the level of the source. That’s our measure.”

When I was looking for the Arlene Croce quotation online, I found a lot of other strange quotations about Willa Cather. People have many weird things to say about her. For example, in an extremely transphobic and unreadable 1997 New Yorker article, the author speculates that Willa Cather would have been “impatient” with Brandon Teena and considered his “gender confusion” as “self-indulgent.” I think of all the authors of this time period, Willa Cather would be the least likely to be a hater, but obviously no one including me has any idea what she thought (or would have thought) about something that didn’t have a name in her time period. Gore Vidal in 1992: “(Willa Cather) liked men to be men, and women to be men, too. She seemed unaware of the paradox.” Huh? It seems that Willa Cather conjures up some very strong ideas in people’s minds and she is still kind of a lightning rod when it comes to gender.

( )
  jollyavis | Dec 14, 2021 |
This was certainly a dating book for 1915. Thea Kronberg is a minister’s daughter in a small, provincial Colorado town who has talents and dreams that her hometown cannot fulfill. With the help of Dr. ARchie a local doctor who acts as her mentor and Ray, a railway worker who is in love with her, she heads to Chicago to pursue a musical career as a pianist.
Once there, her teacher, Mr. Harsanyis, tell her that her real talent is not the piano, but her voice and that she should pursue a career as an opera singer. Through Harsanyis, Thea meets Fred Ottenberg the heir to a t. Louis beer family, who further encourages her efforts. When Thea becomes ill, Fred tells her to spend the summer in Arizona with fiends of his, the Bitmers. Thea learns to love the high desert and the ancient cliff dwellings. When Fred joins her in July, and after the two of them are trapped in a storm, they realize their feeling for one another. Fred then suggests that they go to Mexico City before she leaves for further vocal training in Germany.
In Mexico Fred confesses to Thea that he has been married for 8 years, but has been living apart from his estranged wife. Thea says she understands, but since he’s married she cannot continue their relationship or take any financial help from him for her studies. She writes to Dr. Archie who finances both her passage across the Atlantic and her studies in Germany.
The scene then shifts to ten years later both Fred & Dr. Archie are in New York to hear Thea perform. She is rising star singing Wagner. When she performs Sieglinde she proves that their trust in her and all her hard work have paid off. Thea has followed her talent and established a successful and independent life for herself and found happiness and contentment.
This book was ahead of its time and can be an excellent roadmap for young women today. ( )
  etxgardener | Nov 30, 2021 |
[The Song of the Lark] is about a young woman, Thea Kronberg, growing up in the West who is a talented musician with dreams of success. She'll have to leave her town of Moonstone to be in the spotlight. She moves to Chicago and ultimately to Europe, but is still drawn to the beauty of the American West. The book is a portrait of an ambitious artist and the ups and downs of that sort of life.

I enjoyed this. I thought that Cather did a really good job exploring what it's like to learn a craft like being a successful professional musician. I found it much more realistic than other books I've read on this subject. I also liked that it wasn't overdramatic - this isn't a [[Thomas Hardy]] novel where everyone fails and/or dies. There's some sadness and nostalgia and typical life questions about whether chosen paths were really the best. But in the end, Cather does what I think is harder to write - creates a character with great depth and subtlety.

I don't think this novel stands out for me as much as [My Antonia] or [O, Pioneers], but I would recommend if you enjoy Cather and haven't read this yet. ( )
  japaul22 | Aug 6, 2021 |
Not one of her better known books but I think it is right up there with O Pioneers and My Antonia. I love Willa Cather. ( )
  mcsp | Jan 25, 2021 |
"You can't try to do things right and not despise the people who do them wrong."

The story of a young girl who parties on the Mexican side of town in Colorado and grows up to become a true diva.

If only she saw the look on Spanish Johnny's face at the end... ( )
  stravinsky | Dec 28, 2020 |
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Doctor Howard Archie had just come up from a game of pool with the Jewish clothier and two travelling men who happened to be staying overnight in Moonstone.
The Song of the Lark tells a tale familiar in frontier history, a tale of struggle and courage in which a determined protagonist forges a self equal to a wild and outsized land. (Introduction)
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Thea Kronberg has a voice that can call down angels and the soul of a Colorado pioneer girl. But as she develops her talents and devotes herself to the life of an artist, she must consider the cost of the creative path she follows.

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