The Selected Letters of Willa Cather
Edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout
Knopf. 752 pages, $37.50
I FIRST READ Willa Cather when I was an adolescent searching for my identity, and I read her novels with salacious excitement. Literary gossip and innuendo guided me to the conclusion that Cather was a woman who loved women, and that somewhere coded in My Ántonia or hidden in a drawer of The Professor’s House I would find my own validation. In those two books I found nothing upon which to base my conclusion about the author; nor did I find any degree of personal direction or comfort. What I did discover in those early readings was an extraordinary author of uncluttered elegance able to penetrate the minds and lives of ordinary men and women.