WILLA CATHER IN PERSON: Interviews, Speeches, and Letters by L. Brent--Ed. Bohlke

WILLA CATHER IN PERSON: Interviews, Speeches, and Letters

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Though perhaps of value and interest to Cather scholars and devotees of the Nebraska author's works, this compilation of 34 interviews, six speeches and 10 letters will prove heavy going for the general reader. Cather was not the most outgoing of America's writers. She was protective of her privacy when she was building her literary reputation and became more reticent as her fame grew. Like their author, these pieces reveal little that has not been carefully winnowed of possibly embarrassing details. One of the problems here is that Cather apparently had a certain set of responses and anecdotes that she trotted out almost every time she was interviewed. Thus, the reader is assailed over and over again with what Sarah Orne Jewett said to Miss Cather about ""knowing the world well before you know the parish."" There are also the repeated references to the young Willa riding like the wind across the Midwestern plains, communing with nature and the local immigrant settlers. True perhaps, but less than riveting when read for the eighth or tenth time. Then there is the matter of the inconsistencies in Cather's disclosures to her interviewers. In an interview published in the November 27, 1921, edition of the Omaha World-Herald, for example, Cather apparently told a columnist that ""She [Cather] writes easily and seldom tears a paragraph or a page to pieces. She sometimes revises, but she does not fuss over her writing."" Yet five days later, after an interview with the 48-year-old author, the Lincoln State Journal reported that Cather's methods of composition entailed extensive rewriting. Bohlke does little to resolve these contradictions. A highly specialized collection of minor documents that are of interest more for the questions they raise than for the insights they offer. Though the editor describes this as ""an attempt to better understand the author,"" there's very little light shed on her personal life or on her public one.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska Press