Willa Cather, the author of the pioneer classic O Pioneers!, did not want her personal letters released to the public. But her extended family, in complying with this request, actually contributed to a climate of misinterpretation in the scholarly world. That will change this month with the release of the first volume of compiled letters of Cather, who died in 1947. Read about it in The New York Times.
“In the 1980s and ’90s that difficulty helped fuel intense polemics over Cather’s sexuality, as feminist and queer theory scholars began seeking disguised erotic turmoil under Cather’s placid-seeming literary surfaces, to the dismay of more traditionally minded critics,” wrote Jennifer Schuessler on March 21.
I’m writing a book about another pioneer author, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Many of her letters to her daughter and collaborater in the “Little House” books disappeared. That is, Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter, threw them away. Or at least that’s what probably happened. I keep wondering if a trove of them will show up in Danbury, Connecticut, where Rose lived when she was working on Laura’s last four books. It was then when Rose developed the habit of not saving letters.