I’m embedded in “The Essential Willa Cather Collection” and revisiting my profound appreciation for her work. Cather wrote in the early part of the 20th century, and among many accolades her novel “One of Ours” received a Pulitzer Prize in 1923. I had previously read her classic “My Antonia” but I wasn’t familiar with her other books, short stories and essays.
This collection includes many short stories, essays and critiques and her first novel, “Alexander’s Bridge,” as well as “My Antonia.” Cather is known for bringing alive the Nebraska prairie and the immigrants who lived there at the turn of the century. I am in awe of her ability to shape mood through descriptions of place.
Here’s just a bit from “Alexander’s Bridge” where Cather is describing Chestnut Street in Boston: “Wilson was standing quite still, contemplating with a whimsical smile the slanting street with its worn paving, its irregular, gravely colored houses and the row of naked trees on which the thin sunlight was still shining.”
I hadn’t read any of her short stories until now and just finished “On the Divide,” published in a shortlived magazine The Mahogany Tree in 1892. It’s an odd, rich story that does that thing at the end that some authors manage. With one last sentence, the entire story is perfectly knit.