Willa Cather: A Literary Life

James Woodress, Author University of Nebraska Press $40 (625p) ISBN 978-0-8032-4734-5
An intensely private person, Cather (1873-1947) strewed obstacles in the path of biographers. In this biography, however, based on a wealth of primary material as well as the work of other scholars, Woodress, Cather editor for American Literary Scholarship, does a model job of clearing that path and letting Cather shine forth as author and woman, an undertaking justified by both her status as an indisputably major American writer and the fact that her stories and novels closely reflected her life experience. Born in Virginia and largely raised in Nebraska, Cather developed a precocious literary talent at the University of Nebraska, was for years one of the country's top magazine editors and then, at age 38, turned her attention to writing full time. She was a strong-willed woman of ambivalent sexuality (an issue examined by Woodress with tact and common sense) who, though capable of powerful friendships, put art before all else. As a writer she was a Romantic with a strong streak of the elegiac and a gift of sympathy that in such novels as Death Comes for the Archbishop and Shadows on the Rock deeply engages the reader's emotions. Photos. (October 30)
Reviewed on: 11/02/1987
Release date: 11/01/1987
Paperback - 625 pages - 978-0-8032-9708-1
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-8032-4719-2
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