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The Selected Letters

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  114 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
This first publication of the letters of one of America’s most consistently admired writers is both an exciting and a significant literary event. Willa Cather, wanting to be judged on her work alone, clearly forbade the publication of her letters in her will. But now, more than sixty-five years after her death, with her literary reputation as secure as a reputation can be, ...more
Hardcover, 752 pages
Published April 16th 2013 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2013)
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Jul 30, 2013 Lisa rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
For the life of me, I can not figure out what the hype surrounding this collection is about. Never have I been so happy to complete a read, and one which, I might add, took an inordinately long time to complete. I look upon writing good literature as an art, and for that, I truly appreciate Willa Cather as an author. I just find it hard to accept that by reading a collection of letters by this author that I am anywhere closer to understanding her as a person or as an artist. To believe ...more
Jul 09, 2013 Naomi rated it it was amazing
As Willa Cather is my favorite writer, period, I knew I had to read this book. On that note, this is probably the slowest book I have ever read. In order to grasp every nook and cranny of the book, I read approximately 10 pages per day. This woman's insight is extensive and made me love her even more. Although, I must admit that there was something pretty skeezy about this book being released after the author clearly stated IN A WILL that she didn't want the letters reproduced, it was such a ...more
Richard Jespers
Nov 01, 2014 Richard Jespers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Author Willa Cather was born in 1873 and died in 1947. Her family moved from Virginia to Red Cloud, Nebraska, when she was a child. Throughout her life, though she lived and worked in the Northeast, she would travel back to the plains and later to California to visit the family to whom she was devoted. Though she toiled as an editor and for a few years as a public school English teacher, she supported herself primarily through the sales of her own work.

Her letters reveal a powerful person, one i
Tony Millspaugh
Jul 03, 2014 Tony Millspaugh rated it it was amazing
This is a book that, as the editors noted in the preface that simply should not have existed. Cather's will strictly forbade the publication of any of her correspondence. The last executor to her will died in 2011, so with the legal road block cleared, the editors prepared this volume--approximately 20 percent of the entire corpus.

Why did Cather wish her letters to remain unpublished? She gave as the reason that she wished her canon to stand by itself, wholly the product of her imagination. Scho
Read up to the mid twenties. By this time, Cather had published most of her major works. The themes of the letters became repetitive. The letters from her most important relationship have all been destroyed so I stopped reading this because I didn't think I'd learn anything new. However, what I read was extremely interesting showing how a writer thinks, stores ideas and sketches and puts them together. Also the sometimes vexing relationships with publishers, reviewers, friends and other writers. ...more
Maureen M
Aug 29, 2013 Maureen M rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, reviews
I wrote this review for the paper:

They said she’d burned all her letters, but thank goodness that wasn’t true. She did not want them published, but we can be grateful that the editors of the “Selected Letters of Willa Cather” didn’t let her have the last word.
Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout scoured archives and family collections and stitched hundreds of Willa Cather’s letters to friends and family members into a revealing autobiography of one of this country’s greatest authors. We see her as a sa
Jun 24, 2013 Phoebe rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Lisa
This huge volume is really too much to get through, so I only skimmed it; the foreword is interesting as we learn that Cather stipulated in her will that her letters were never to be made public. The trust responsible for her writings has since decided that as 65 years or so have passed and everyone mentioned is now gone, it's all right to gather the letters into one volume for publication. Cather is witty and nimble with a phrase. She writes lightly yet intelligently. I was interested in her ...more
Beverly Atkinson
Sep 08, 2013 Beverly Atkinson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: letters
I read this selection slowly, savoring Willa's letters for her honesty and boldness when addressing or referring to family members, publishers, reviewers, or admirers. Her letters are passionate and sometimes brash.

During my third book borrow from the Hennepin County Library, I never regretted the waiting for it. Re-reading "One of Ours" after finishing Part Six (of the letters) was a rich experience. I also read Pat Barker's "Life Class" during a hiatus, a fitting complement to "One of Ours."

Karna Converse
May 15, 2015 Karna Converse rated it really liked it
I'm only part way through this 700-page tome, but I'm finding this book an intriguing book that emphasizes the art of writing letters, the history they record, and the personal profile they create. Cather's letters are direct, yet full of details that reveal her passion for the arts and her desire to maintain relationships. The editors have arranged the 566 letters in chronological order, so it's easy to travel with Cather from her school years (late 1800's) to the years at the height of her ...more
R.G. Phelps
Jun 20, 2016 R.G. Phelps rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned

I found the selected Willa Cather letters to be very interesting and a glimpse into Willa Cather's personality. I witnessed her joyful times as well as her disappointments and anger over something or someone. The authors introductions to a letter or group of letters was well done and very helpful to me while reading this collection. I would have liked to see some of the letters to her that she was responding to as it would have given me a better understanding of her responsive reply.
Jan 23, 2016 Nicole rated it it was amazing
This was an epic book, which I expected (and not just because of the size). It started when Willa was a teen in the late 1800's and ended with her death in 1947. Her letters provided much insight into all aspects of her life, except maybe her relationship with Edith Lewis. I was inspired to read One of Ours and Song of the Lark in conjunction with this book after being intrigued by all the letters she wrote discussing them, and I have several more on my Kindle waiting their turn. The family ...more
Virginia Albanese
May 31, 2013 Virginia Albanese rated it it was amazing
Because Willa Cather didn't want her letters published I felt a little guilty reading them. I found them fascinating reading about how she wrote, her thoughts to her friends and publishers. She minced no words at times. Very interesting how when writing a book she described it as having a child, helping it grow and when done there was a loss and grief.
These were certainly different times when writers literally handwrote their work and had long correspondence with people. (Do you think we will
Cricket Muse
Jul 06, 2013 Cricket Muse rated it did not like it
Shelves: stopped-reading
As much as I wanted to read this, I stopped. Cather expressly stated in her will she did not want her letters released to the public, and yet here they are. I think it lacks professional respect for a literary illuminary to print them under the guise of learning more about the author.

I address this in an upcoming blog dealing with the ethics of snooping under the pretense of academic sleuthing.

I would be interested in your opinion about literary snooping:
May 14, 2013 Kate added it
Shelves: 2013
I'm marking this as read, but tbh I dipped in and out of these letters, skipping many, since I had to return this to NYPL. I don't think my Cather knowledge is thorough enough to really appreciate much of what is included here, nor do I think most books of letters from authors are that interesting--Elizabeth Bishop excluded, since she was hilarious and thoughtful. Cather seems to have been more utilitarian. But then, I often thought I was missing some nuance in her novels by not reading closely ...more
Sep 07, 2014 Jennybeast rated it really liked it
I have always loved Willa Cather's work, so I really enjoyed this collection. It took me forever to read, but I loved immersing myself in her time period and her perspective. I feel a little bad about reading letters that she so adamantly refused to want published, but she remains a fascinating woman.
Will Dunfey
Jan 24, 2014 Will Dunfey rated it it was amazing
I attended the Cather conference in Red Cloud last June and purchased the just-released Selected Letters. This is a first -rate view of her life from childhood in Nebraska to Pittsburgh, Manhattan, the Southwest, Maine and NH, and elsewhere. Her descriptions of her major novels and her self-confidence are the best features of the letters.
Sep 17, 2014 Renee rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I loved peeking behind the scenes of one of my favorite artists. Cather's so strongly connected to Nebraska, I never would have guessed she spent a good chunk of her early career living and teaching in Pittsburgh! How uninteresting the "Selected Emails and Texts" of our contemporary novelists will be in 75 years. Is this a dying genre?
Jane Wolfe
Apr 01, 2015 Jane Wolfe rated it really liked it
When I began reading these letters, I wished for more commentary by the editors. By the time I finished, I thought the limited commentary was entirely appropriate. Cather, in her own words, is a wonderful story. The letters portray her growth and confidence in herself as a writer and a woman.
May 17, 2013 Carrie rated it really liked it
This is a great read for anyone who's read even just one of Cather's novels. You really get an excellent idea of her personality and private life through these letters. I had no idea what an independent woman and thinker Cather was.
Jan 26, 2014 Alexis rated it it was amazing
This book is a treasure. It reads best if you read a few letters at a time and savor them--there are wonderful insights into Cather's books, her experiences, the writing life, and the times she lived. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Shirley Barnes Sandridge
Feb 13, 2014 Shirley Barnes Sandridge rated it really liked it
Great insight into Willa and the years she was writing, but I tried to read it like a novel, which I don't recommend. Small bites are better.
Sep 09, 2013 Jbondandrews rated it it was amazing
A marvelous book! Willa was an extraordinary woman who lived a full life and met many wonderful people along the way. I hope to one day read her works.
Jul 19, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it
I enjoyed getting to know one of my favorite authors a little better. I learned some interesting stuff about her life.
Thomas Isern
Sep 29, 2013 Thomas Isern rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-plains
Just finished this compendious and satisfying work. It will be reviewed in my weekly feature, Plains Folk.
Apr 02, 2013 Dianne marked it as to-read
This looks good!!

Release date: April 16, 2013

As it stands now this is 19.99 on kindle
hardcover 20.98
Aug 01, 2015 Joanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These are every bit as gorgeous as you'd expect of Willa Cather, and the editors did a superb job selecting and arranging and introducing them. One of the most pleasurable reads of 2014
Apr 02, 2014 Ellen rated it really liked it
Interesting look into her life, enjoyable, almost like reading a diary.
Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Jul 28, 2014
Susan rated it it was ok
Aug 21, 2013
Chris rated it did not like it
Jul 26, 2013
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Wilella Sibert Cather was born in Back Creek Valley, Virgina (Gore) in December 7, 1873. Her novels on frontier life brought her to national recognition. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, One of Ours (1922), set during World War I. She grew up in Virginia and Nebraska. She then attended the University of Nebraska, initially planning to become a physician, but after writing ...more
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“But writing is a queer business. If one does anything that is sharp and keep enough to go over the line, to get itself with the work that is taken seriously, one has to have had either an unusual knowledge of or a peculiar sympathy with the characters one handles. One can’t write about what one most admires always—you must, by some accident, have seen into your character very deeply, and it is this accident of intense realization of him that give your writing about him tone and distinction, that lifts it above the commonplace, in other words” 2 likes
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