Monday, January 13, 2014

Death Comes...


T100_novels_DeathComesToTheArchbishop

...For the Archbishop. Doesn't that sound like a horror story or something macabre by Poe? Really, it's an adorable book about the Archbishop of New Mexico (based on the real-life first Archbishop of New Mexico, Jean-Baptiste Lamy) reviewing his life as a pioneer, written by one of my very favorite great American authors, Willa Cather. Seriously, her writing is meant to be read out loud. Listen read:

"It was early when the Spanish Cardinal and his guests sat down to dinner. The sun was still good for an hour of supreme splendour (sic), and across the shining folds of country the low profile of the city barely fretted the skyline - indistinct except for the dome of St. Peter's, bluish grey like the flattened top of a great balloon, just a flash of copper light on its soft metallic surface...this time in the later afternoon, the vehemence of the sun suggested motion. The light was full of action and had a peculiar quality of splendid finish... It bored into the ilex trees, illuminating their mahogany trunks and blurring their dark foliage; it warmed the bright green of the orange trees and the rose of the oleander blooms to gold; sent congested spiral patterns quivering over the damask and plate and crystal." (pg. 4)

Emily is such a good sport and let me read aloud to her in the airport at one in the morning...more on that later.

"One might almost say that an apparition is human vision corrected by divine love... [Miracles] seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always." (pg. 50)

Ok, so Cather's a bit of an early American romantic, but when you write such amazing works of literary beauty, you can afford to. (Also, props to using big words and long phrases yet somehow avoiding to sound pretentious.)

"North of Laguna two Zuni runners sped by them, going somewhere east... They saluted Eusabio by gestures with the open palm, but did not stop. They coursed over the sand with the fleetness of young antelope, their bodies disappearing and reappearing among the sand dunes, like the shadows that eagles cast in their strong, unhurried flight." (pg. 235)

She is not without fault, and romanticizes the intrusion of Americans into the areas of New Mexico, Arizona, and southern Colorado as "progress". But at the same time, she demonstrates an appreciation for the unique culture of the area and her desire for it to be preserved, and does not fail to represent the full spectrum of humanity as portrayed by Hopi and Navajo, Rancher and Priest alike. So, needless to say, I'm a bit torn about how I am to interpret this book because it's sorta heavy on the "white man's burden" but it's also freaking BEAUTIFUL.

I also just realized that in order to read 75 books in a year, that's more than one per week, and I'm already behind. Oops.

P.S. Wondering wtf is an ilex tree? Me too. Apparently it's just the fancy Latin for the holly tree.

P.P.S. I tried to read Chuck Palahniuk's "Choke" next, but jk lol why did I think that was going to happen? I mean, the dude wrote "Fight Club" and I was surprised by how, um, nasty this book was. I got four and a half chapters in before I threw in the proverbial towel. Just, no.

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