One of Yamini’s choices for our 50 Women Challenge was Willa Cather. I shall begin by saying that I do not tend to get on well with Cather’s work, and I always feel as though I should enjoy it far more than I do. Rather than a novel which I may well have been disappointed with, I chose to read one of her short stories, Paul’s Case: A Study in Temperament.
Initially published in McClure’s Magazine in 1905, the subject of Paul’s Case is a suspended schoolboy – named, unsurprisingly, Paul – who was ‘to appear before the faculty of the Pittsburgh High School to account for his various misdemeanours’. He becomes frustrated with his relatively privileged lifestyle, and decides to flee Pennsylvania for New York City.
Cather’s descriptions were my favourite part of the story, particularly those of Paul himself: ‘His eyes were remarkable for a certain hysterical brilliancy and he continually used them in a conscious, theatrical sort of way, peculiarly offensive in a boy’.
The tale is rather a depressing one, but it does hold the interest throughout. The whole is engaging and intelligent, but there is a curious distancing to the whole – perhaps due to the third person perspective which Cather has used. Whilst I enjoyed reading Paul’s Case, it has not quite made me want to rush to read any more of Cather’s work.