Just William

Doris Grumbach

  • Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice by Sharon O’Brien
    Oxford, 544 pp, £22.50, March 1987, ISBN 0 19 504132 1

Willa Cather is one of those American writers whose fictional accomplishments were both applauded and judged harshly when she was alive. Now, forty years after her death, they are the subject of increasing critical interest. In her lifetime she was praised by H.L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, Louise Bogan, but Edmund Wilson said that One of Ours,[*] her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, was a complete failure and that My Antonia ended on the level of a Ladies Home Journal serial. Lionel Trilling called The Professor’s House ‘lame’ and Ernest Hemingway thought Cather had found the war experiences described in One of Ours in D.W. Griffith’s film Birth of a Nation.

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[*] Virago will publish One of Ours in November. They have already published Death comes for the Archbishop, A Lost Lady, Lucy Gayheart, My Antonia, My Mortal Enemy, O Pioneers!, The Professor’s House, Sapphira and the Slave Girl, Shadows on the Rock and The Song of the Lark. Last year Willa Cather: A Pictorial Memoir, with photographs by Lucia Woods and others, and a text by Bernice Slote, appeared from University of Nebraska Press (134pp., $27.95, 0 803 20828 6).