Tag Archives: Willa Cather

Book Club Spotlight – Death Comes for the Archbishop

Cover of Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. The cover art is a pencil drawing of a road curving around sand dunes covered in sparse vegitation.

A new year means new books will be entering the public domain! According to copyright laws, works originating in 1927 will now be free for all to share, use, and create new stories with. For example, last year, the original Winnie-the-Pooh books by A.A. Milne entered the public domain, leading to a new horror movie featuring the characters. So now, in 2023, we have a whole new set of stories to look out for, and today we’ll be talking about one in our very own Book Club collection. Death Comes for the Archbishop is Willa Cather’s re-telling of the lives of Roman Catholic clergymen Jean-Baptiste Lamy and Joseph Projectus Machebeuf as they establish a diocese in the U.S. New Mexico Territory in the 1800s. Cather, preferring to call it a “narrative” rather than a novel, wrote Death Comes for the Archbishop as a cluster of vignettes, legends, and stories surrounding the fictionalized Southwest and how the Catholic Church came to shape the region. But don’t let that frighten you; her book isn’t that of religious zealotry but of the people.

Father Jean Marie Latour, a French Jesuit priest, has been sent off to be the Vicar and Bishop of the newly American-owned New Mexico territory. He, with his close childhood friend Father Joseph Vaillant, attempts to serve their diocese, which often descends into disarray with the Mexican and Native American population content to perform religion in their own way due to the prolonged absence of a Vicar. The men, unused to the harsh New Mexico region, but earnest in their faith, meet and grow fond of their parishioners in the American Southwest, painting a knowledgeable and sympathetic portrait of the times and the people. The intelligent and philosophical Father Latour is open-minded about other cultures and finds human love at the root of his faith. At the same time, his abrupt friend Father Vaillant is much more direct in his faith and actions, which often leads to a more closed-minded approach. Because of this, the two, though immensely fond of each other, find themselves at odds in their passions. Vaillant’s often taking him away on evangelical missions, all the while Latour’s passion keeps him close to home, cultivating deeper bonds there but missing his partner. Together and apart, they explore the vast New Mexico territory, expanding their faith and assisting those in their care.

“Where there is great love there are always miracles,”

Willa Cather

Death Comes for the Archbishop is a quiet and reflective narrative that celebrates communities and cultures coming together while still holding onto their traditions. Not Catholic herself, Cather shows a gentler depiction of religion than her typical portrayal and how it can build a community of not only faith but trust and security. She does not portray the church or even the priests in the novel as perfect but as humans who want to do their best for their parishioners and God. Father Latour is wholly human, makes mistakes, and has his own prejudice, but he never looks down on another person; he advocates for the rights of the Navajos, Mexicans, and all people in his diocese. While the more brash Vaillant is more prone to prejudice, he has his own deep connections in the community as well. And everyone, especially the women, is treated kindly and with reverence, and any biases the priests may have do not bleed into the narration overall. Of course, being a Willa Cather book, any Nebraska book club will have a great time reading one of her classics. Readers will find discussion topics in the many vignette parables scattered throughout the book. While some phrasing or ideas are old, the novel still holds up in its earnestness and love for all people. Modern audiences and book groups will appreciate the sympathetic acknowledgment of the Native and Mexican people whose homes are displaced by white intruders and see how our modern ideals have or have not changed.

To see this year’s list of copyrighted works entering the public domain, visit the link here!

If you’re interested in requesting this book for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here. There are 5 copies available (Items must be requested by a librarian) 

Cather, Willa. Death Comes for the Archbishop. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1927

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#BookFaceFriday: “My Antonia” by Willa Cather

O! #BookFaceFriday!

“During that burning day when we were crossing Iowa, our talk kept returning to a central figure, a Bohemian girl whom we had both known long ago.”

This week’s #BookFace title comes from the collection “Nebraska Connections” on Nebraska OverDrive Libraries, it’s compiled from various end-of-the-year lists and has 167 eBooks and Audiobooks, including, “My Antonia” by Willa Cather (Random House Publishing Group, 2020.)

This Nebraska classic is available as an eBook and audiobook, along with many other Cather titles and nonfiction titles about the author and other Nebraskans. Explore the collection today and find your next read. The Nebraska Library Commission also offers a wide selection of Nebraska titles in our Book Club Kit Collection as well, you can find them all by browsing the “Nebraska-Related” section at http://nlc.nebraska.gov/ref/bookclub/.

“’The best thing I’ve done is My Antonia,’ recalled Willa Cather. ‘I feel I’ve made a contribution to American letters with that book.’ Set against the vast Nebraska prairie, Cather’s elegiac novel features one of the most winning heroines in American fiction—Antonia Shimerda—a young woman whose strength and passion epitomize the triumphant vitality of this country’s pioneers. ” book jacket

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 188 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 21,696 audiobooks, 35,200 eBooks, and 3,964 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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New Book on BARD!

Just in Time for the Holidays!

One of the first works by Willa Cather has been recorded by our Talking Book and Braille Service! “The Burglar’s Christmas” was originally published in the December 1896 issue of The Home Monthly under the pseudonym Elizabeth L Seymour.

“William Crawford has failed at one enterprise after another. No job, no money, no food, he desperately decides to try being a thief – and gets caught. “

This is a short but powerful read, just right for the holidays. TBBS borrowers can request “The Burglar’s Christmas,” DBC 01980, or download it from the National Library Service BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) website. If you have high-speed internet access, you can download books to your smartphone or tablet, or onto a flash drive for use with your player. You may also contact your reader’s advisor to have the book mailed to you on cartridge.

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#BookFaceFriday “Alexander’s Bridge” by Willa Cather

Sit back and relax, it’s #BookFaceFriday!

You know all those classics you always have to lie about having read? Well now’s your chance to really read them! Nebraska OverDrive Libraries just added a huge selection of classic novels, 1,010 classics including this week’s #BookFaceFriday! “Alexander’s Bridge” (Duke Classics, 2012) by Willa Cather just one of many Cather titles available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in eBook and Audiobook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 16,670 audiobooks and 28,473 eBooks, with new titles added weekly. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use.

If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

From the book jacket

“Construction engineer and world-renowned bridge builder Bartley Alexander has everything in mid-life: wealth, good looks, and fame. Yet he finds himself restless and discontented with life—until he meets a former love from his student days and resumes his relationship with her.
Living a double life, Alexander is torn between Winifred, his American wife—a cold woman with clearly defined standards—and Hilda Burgoyne, his alluring mistress in London who helps him recapture his youth and sense of freedom. Alexander’s affair, which eventually gnaws away at his sense of propriety and honor, proves disastrous.
Willa Cather’s first novel—a fascinating study of a man’s growing awareness of the breach in his integrity—is essential reading for fans of this great American novelist.”
” … exceptionally well-conceived and well written.”—Outlook
” … told with a good deal of charm and skill.”—New York Times Book Review
” … a story of brilliant and unusual power.”—McClure’s

This week’s #BookFaceFriday model is Rod Wagner, the Director of NLC!

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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#BookFaceFriday “A Lost Lady”

It’s the end of an era with this week’s #BookFace!

"A Lost Lady" by Willa Cather BookFaceWe chose, renowned Nebraska author, Willa Cather’s novel “A Lost Lady” (Virago UK, 2006) as this week’s #BookFaceFriday selection. Published in 1923 and set against the background of the west, it’s a third person account of a small town aristocrat’s social decline, and the symbolic end of the idealized pioneer and old west. The heroine, Marian Forrester, has been coined a “symbolic flower of the Old American West,” and is rumored to have been an inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchanan. This short novel is a quick and engaging read for any book club!

Her finest novel… Unforgettable…This wonderful performance displays Cather’s narrative technique at its sharpest, as well as her understanding of the eloquence of the slightest gesture, the simplest statement … A masterpiece.” –Irish Times

This week’s #BookFaceFriday model is our Cataloging Librarian, Allison Badger! If you get a chance, wish her a happy birthday, because it’s today!

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available for book clubs at http://nlc.nebraska.gov/ref/bookclub. Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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