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I have discovered a bit of tarnish on this golden age of biography, in the nasty piece of work inflicted on the great American novelist, Willa Cather, by the denizens of literary theory, Freudianism, multiculturalism, feminism, and sexual politics.
Most readers might perceive Cather as a Catholic-sympathizing Episcopalian, realistic-even pessimistic-about human behavior but devoted to traditional norms. However, many academics project their postmodern prejudices on this estimable writer.p>To her eternal credit, Joan Acocella of the New Yorker , wrote an excellent essay, later a short book , rescuing Cather from the ravages of literary critics, left and right, who try to appropriate this great artist for their narrow ideological agendas: br> /p>
The parade of American literature goes by, float after float: realism, naturalism, psychological novel, social novel, political novel. Cather belongs with none of them, which means either that she is left out or, if she is desperately needed, that she is forced at gunpoint to put on a paper hat and join a group in which she has no place. Hence her uneasy standing with the feminists. She is not one of them, and they know it. That’s why they don’t like her.br> Cather deserves a first-rate, contemporary biography more in line with Disraeli’s definition. However, James Woodress’s Willa Cather: A Literary Life (1987) is a serviceable work on the subject.
Besides liberating the reader from the strictures of theory, biography provides a delightful means of studying history, accessible to the intelligent general or lay reader who may not have the time or inclination to master the more daunting tomes of professional, academic historians immersed in the minutiae and jargon of their profession.
Our age has lost the art of great narrative history. Biography has filled the void. The finest biographies provide a historical, social, and cultural tapestry, a backdrop or context, for the individual life which is its subject. Again, reading Massie on Peter the Great transports the reader back to a time in which the beauty and barbarity of an almost medieval society contrasted sharply with Western Europe at that time.
For the inveterate reader, with the interest but not the time to study history, there is no greater enjoyment than to immerse himself in the life of an emblematic personage of any age.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?