Willa Cather in Person: Interviews, Speeches, and Letters

Willa Cather in Person: Interviews, Speeches, and Letters

Willa Cather in Person: Interviews, Speeches, and Letters

Willa Cather in Person: Interviews, Speeches, and Letters

Synopsis

Included in this book are Cather's radio speech accepting the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, accounts of her other public speeches, interviews conducted by Louise Bogan and Stephen Vincent Benet, and six little-known portraits of Cather.

Excerpt

Willa Cather, referring to the development of the singer Thea Kronborg in The Song of the Lark, thought that "the play of blind chance" and "fortunate accidents" determine our way.Bernice Slote, in many ways the parent of this book, recognized as much in her introduction to The Kingdom of Art. This book, like Slote's, was the result of one of those accidents.A fellow student and I shared an office in the Department of English at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln while we were both working on our graduate degrees.When my friend had finished his degree and was moving on, he gave me a copy of James B. Meriwether and Michael Millgate's Lion in the Garden, a collection of interviews withWilliam Faulkner from 1926 to 1962, with a simple note: "For you if you need it." As I continued work on my dissertation on Cather and religion, that book gave me an idea.I began noting references to Cather's interviews. I was surprised.There were far more of them than I had expected. As I pursued references in other works, scoured indexes, and followed up oblique mentions in her correspondence, I discovered not only interviews but articles about her speeches and additional published letters.

The image I had received from my initial studies of Cather was that of an artist who grew increasingly reclusive—one who disliked social discourse and intercourse more and more as she grew older.I soon discovered that in reality, Cather remained a public figure, but a more discriminating one in her middle and later years.She was not a personality of the age of mass media, yet she was receptive to public notice for most of her life.

I had seen virtually all of her extant correspondence in the course of my dissertation research, and the woman I had found there was wise, witty, and warm. Yet the restriction in her will concerning the publication of her correspondence led me to believe that there was one side of her person that she was . . .

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