man, rub it in, pound it down; she would deserve it and need it for her soul's salvation. She knew that her knowledge and desire were at the mercy of the feeble hand, the hand made unsteady by the fullness of truth. 37
As if responding to Cather's fear, in his review Mencken did give her the pounding she half thought she deserved when he said that she had fallen into the company of lady writers. The first half of the book (where Cather stuck to her Nebraska material) Mencken liked, but the last half (where she crossed into male territory) degenerated, he charged, to the "level of a serial in the Ladies' Home Journal." 38
Cather was distressed by the novel's reviews, the openly announced failure of her feeble hand. One of Ours was the novel with which she had felt most emotionally engaged, and she found it hard to remain detached from the public criticism. Given her maternal feelings for Claude, she may have been disturbed by this confrontation with the limits of a mother's power. Even though she had safely brought her novel to life, battling her own anxieties and leaving her first publisher in the process, she could not protect the novel from the reviewers. But her close bond with her literary child persisted, and eventually Claude's injury was balanced by her own. In the summer of 1923 Cather went to France, hoping to work on a new novel, but she suffered a painful attack of neuritis in her right arm and found herself unable to write.