5 Bank Street: The Listserv for Willa Cather Scholars


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"Janis P. Stout" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
5 Bank Street: The Listserv for Willa Cather Scholars
Tue, 30 Apr 2013 20:10:53 -0500
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I have tried to tell myself not to do this, but I guess I'm not a 
good listener.

I continue to be puzzled by these negative responses to the NYTimes 
review. Of course it wasn't a scholarly review; the Times is not a 
scholarly journal, but a very high quality general outlet. The 
reviewer wasn't a specialist -- not should he be, I'm thinking, for 
that outlet. I thought it was thoughtfully and sensitivelly done, 
well-written review. Nothing new? Well, no, nor would I expect there 
to be, from the perspective of us specialists. From the perspective 
of the interested and intelligent general reader, maybe there was. 
But anyway I'm not sure a review in a nonscholarly outlet is the 
place one would expect something new.

And please note, he did not call her frumpy or rustic. That first 
half of the closing paragraph, where the f word occurs, is a 
statement of Cather's prevailing image in contrast to the prevailing 
images of Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Hyperbole, maybe, but I think not 
far off from fact. Then there's an emphatic "BUT" and he says that 
the image he has just caricatured does not reflect the complexity of 
her life or the magnitude of her achievement. Gee! What more could we 
ask? I mean, as the author/editor who after all has more than just a 
little skin in this game, I have to say I am not disappointed at all, 
but pleased and rather moved by it. No, it wasn't an exciting piece. 
I still think it was quite affirming and as well informed as I could 
possibly have imagined.

So now if all of you want to tell my that I should have followed my 
own initial advice -- well, I'll try to take my scolding in silence.

Janis P. Stout
105 Greenway Dr.
Brenham, TX 77833
(979) 830-7131