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Most Nebraskans have some familiarity with Willa Cather, although I don't typically think of her for non-fiction. She wrote several great fiction works about life on the prairie. Yes, I would say that she deserves to represent Nebraska.


Cather enjoys almost mythic stature among the plains literati ... and with good reason. I have attended writing workshops at the Cather House in Red Cloud, Nebraska (which is less than 100 miles from my home in in central Neb. She is perhaps the greatest writer of "place" (in my judgment) that I have read - when she writes of the plains you are almost there ... just astonishing.

I agree with Laura that we Nebraskans (and many others, I suspect) tend to honor Cather for her fiction rather than non-fiction, though there are those who find her plotting a little weak and her characters sometimes almost cartoonish. I can put up with little things like that because of the overall sweep and beauty of her prose.

As far as her being "first" in Nebraska letters ... uummmm ... one needs to consider Wright Morris, perhaps the finest writer of American fiction since Henry James - again, in my opinion ... and certainly one of the best writers to come out of Nebraska in the last 100 years. There will be those who say that Morris lived (and wrote) mostly out of Nebraska, and they would be correct. But so did Cather ... and they both evoked the plains as well as it can be done - though admittedly in different eras.

Just sayin' ... Cather is wonderful ... but don't ignore some other Nebraska voices, especially Wright Morris.


Great to hear from you again.

Thanks ever so much for the instructive comment.

Which book would you recommend for me to get to know Cather and Morris, respectively?

I am interested either in the books that you liked most, or the books that best capture the special character of Nebraska.

Sorry for being somewhat "unresponsive" over the past 2 or 3 months. I get involved in a project and can't seem to find time to return to other things - even my own blog has gone south. For me, you see, dilettantism is nearly pathological! But to answer your questions above ...

As you probably have guessed by now, I am a huge Wright Morris fan - I have everything he has ever written, several more works about him, and have attended several conferences devoted to his work. Anyway, my favorite Morris works are "Ceremony at Lone Tree" (one of his earlier) and a later one called "Plains Song: For Female Voices" - I recommend them both to you without reservation. Also, because of who (and where) you are, I would suggest you take a look at "Solo: An American Dreamer in Europe"; this is one of several autobiographical volumes by Morris. In this particular one, he spends a "Wanderjahr" in Europe, and specifically with a very eccentric family in an Austrian castle - good stuff. Surprisingly, Morris seems to be better known to many for his photography than his fiction - but I think this is something close to literary blasphemy; Morris is an undeniably talented photographer (he has published several books of his pictures and they are wonderful) but for me it is his writing that stands out.

Concerning Cather, her "My Antonia" and "O Pioners" are iconic early midwestern fictional chronicles and either (or both) you will find enriching in every way. My own personal favorite Cather book is a later work (one written during/after her "Southwestern" period) called "Death Comes for the Archbishop" - a fascinating and fact-based collection of sketches of early Catholic missionaries in the American Southwest. It absolutely sparkles - one could teach a class in creative writing with this book alone.


I did miss you. Great to hear from you again.

Thanks so much for your insightful comment. Why don't you post it at your own blog (so I can steal it from there for a future post)?

Alternatively, will you allow me to use your above comment in a post here at RSE?

You have made me very curious. At any rate, I shall do some more research on both Cather and Morris.


You are, of course, welcome to use anything at any time that tumbles from my word processor - it might be more timely to clip directly from here since I do not foresee a post at the "Middle Border" in the near future.

Which reminds me, I took the name of my blog from an American author named Hamlin Garland, whose seminal work is a wonderful early tale of mid-America called "A Son of the Middle Border". Garland is not a Nebraska author per se, but he is an eminently readable chronicler of early Midwestern America - so you might find him interesting.


I forgot to mention ... if you are interested in reading a book of short stories about growing up in Nebraska written by an honest-to-God Nebraskan, you can download it here (for free!)


The author is a reclusive and somewhat opinionated old misanthrope, and the stories, while life-based, are decidedly fiction (meaning they are all true except for the parts that aren't). If you opt not to avail yourself of this opportunity, I wouldn't blame you ...;)


Wow! What a fine surprise. I have always looked at you as a writer, and an accomplished one at that. And now, here are some more (hidden to me) fruits of your talent. I am looking forward to the reading.

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