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Willa Cather: A Literary Life
by James Leslie Woodress
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Using the late Bernice Slote's collection of materials and availing himself of the rich body of Cather scholarship, Woodress has succeeded in presenting what would seem to be the definitive Cather biography for our time. As the subtitle suggests, this large study alternates the events in Cather's life with judicious expositions of her writing. Without any special axe to grind, Woodress is able to absorb the claims of recent feminist criticism (Rosowski, O'Brien) while maintaining a traditional but greatly amplified and multi-detailed portrait of this major novelist. Well written, unflagging in its interest, and warmly sympathetic, this biography is a worthy complement to Cather's distinguished work. Highly recommended. Earl Rovit, City Coll., CUNY
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
James Woodress goes beyond previous biographers in drawing on some fifteen hundred letters, interviews, speeches, and reminiscences. He separates much fact from fiction and takes into account the ever-growing body of Cather criticism.
The author of My Ántonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop was in love with life: here are her passions, prejudices, and quirks of personality. Thoroughly grounded in Cather's writings, which were autobiographical to an uncommon degree, Willa Cather: A Literary Life is likely to stand as the definitive biography of her for years to come.
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