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The Editor’s Essay Review In the first eight issues of Western American Literature we have been able to carry reviews, some quite lengthy, of only 103 books, (including a number of reprints), perhaps fewer than half the number of significant western books published during the past three years. It was interesting to me in making certain classifications of these books to learn that forty-eight were published by western university presses and only eight by western commercial publishers. Conversely, thirty-nine were published by eastern commercial publishers and eight by eastern university presses. Thirty-eight were biographyautobiography ; thirty-two, general essay; fifteen, novels; ten, folklore; six, short story; and two, poetry. Indications are that in the next two volumes there will be represented a larger proportion of imaginative literature. At the recent Rocky Mountain Book Festival in Denver I saw unmistak­ able evidence that the writing, editing, publishing, and reading of books has still survived television. Even for a western enthusiast like myself there was surprise at the interest and vitality still to be found in the world of books. Some sixty thousand persons of all ages attended the festival, and audiences up to five hundred packed auditoriums to listen to authors discuss their current books. Among the western authors who spoke were Frank Waters (Pumpkin Seed Point)-, Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire); David Roberts (The Mountain of My Fear); David Lavender (The Rockies); and Marshall Sprague (Gallery of Dudes). Of the making of many books about the West, then, there is no decline in sight, happily; and, since many of these books are really excellent in their portrayals of man and nature in the West, I certainly do not find that much reading of them is a weariness to the flesh. In order to provide comment on more of the significant western books than can be accommodated by individual reviews in each issue I shall continue this section making concise analyses of a few notable new books that are of special interest to me. In addition I shall make brief, one-paragraph announce­ ments of important reprints. Many of these books have been out of print for over a century so that they have been virtually unavailable to several generations of readers. Publishers are doing a significant service to general readers and scholars of western literature alike to reissue such books. About twenty of the books I shall discuss in the next few issues are the best of those I read and assessed as a judge in the non-fiction category of the 1967 Western Writers of America Spur Awards Competition. 86 It is seventy-five years since Willa Cather began writing professionally and over half a century since she began writing the novels which have estab­ lished her as a major western literary figure. Her novels received varied critical interpretations as they came along, and in recent years her writings have begun to be collected and carefully edited. The two books at hand are good examples of the basic kinds of scholarship that must be applied to any author’s work if he is to be fully understood. The Kingdom of Art: Willa Cather’s First Principles and Critical Statements 1893-1896. Selected and Edited with two essays and a commentary by Bernice Slote. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966. xiv + 489 pages, $8.95.) Willa Cather and Her Critics. Edited by James Schroeter. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967. xiii -f 392 pages, $10.00.) The Kingdom of Art is the fifth in a series of books by and about Willa Cather published by the University of Nebraska Press, and at least three more volumes are in preparation. One value of the present collection from her early critical writing (which amounted to nearly a half million words by 1896) is that it presents at least the beginning of a documentary on Willa Cather’s creative process. Further, the essays and drama criticism collected here “many of them lying unread for nearly seventy years’, as Professor Slote says, “return like the voice of beginnings, unexpectedly fresh and new. They comprise a marvelously authentic portrait of the artist as a young woman.” For me one surprise of the book was...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 85-90
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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