If one doesn't come across Willa Cather's name as frequently as those of the other major American novelists of her time, a large part of the reason, one suspects, is that she suffers from an image problem. People who have never even read her—or who retain only the vaguest memories of having read her in school—tend to think of her as earnest, proficient, dully respectable; almost universally, it seems, her name conjures up drab images of Midwestern prairies and amber waves of grain, images which are likely to strike the typical reader as far less scintillating than, say, Hemingway's soldiers and toreros, Fitzgerald's flappers and romantic egoists, or even Dreiser's magnificently wretched Jennies, Carries, and Clydes. Perhaps the most celebrated remark about Cather by one of her literary contemporaries is Hemingway's derisive comment, in a 1923 letter to Edmund Wilson, about a battle-front episode in her...

 
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