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130 Western American Literature ern family life: child custody conflicts; step-parenting; maverick sexuality; and death, both expected and random. The working sensibilities and sincerity Nelson gives her characters and her even-handed attitude toward them remind one of Raymond Carver. Her style, however, is more direct and fast paced, and on rare occasion marred by clunky phrasing or clichés. Ultimately, these are not stories of “male nudes”—not portraits of static, pristine art forms and not revelations of only the male psyche. These are the struggles and giggles of human beings of all ages, male and female from east and west, who tangle, embrace, and at times drift apart like people we all could know. And, because of the dignity, fragility, andjoy the writer has given them, they become people we all should know. DEBRA L. PARK Central Wyoming College A Reader’s Guide to the Short Stories ofWilla Cather. By Sheryl L. Meyering. (New York: G. K. Hall, 1994. 275 pages, $60.00.) Sheryl Meyering’s Reader’s Guide to the Short Stories ofWilla Catheris a useful addition to Cather studies. It provides a handy collection of resources for each of Cather’s short stories, offering historical, thematic and critical information. Each entry, in alphabetical order by title, can be a useful tool as either introduction to or reminder of the impact and influence of Cather’s short fiction, which has been generating ever greater interest among Cather’s read­ ers for the past several years. For each story, Meyering addresses five categories: Publication History; Circumstances of Composition, Sources, and Influences; Relationship to Other Cather Works; Interpretations and Criticisms; and Works Cited. Infor­ mation is gathered from a comprehensive bibliography of critical materials, giving a “snapshot” of each story. Insofar as this format allows for consistent assessment, it also reveals the relative interest stories have generated. As most readers know, some of Cather’s short fiction is very good, and some of it is not. The inequity of critical assessment is apparent in Meyering’s approach. There is simply much more to say about some stories. The Reader’s Guide is intent on making connections between and among the short stories and Cather’s novels, and its ability to make that integration clear is one of its strengths. There is reallynot much new here in the analysis of stories. Meyering’s introduction mixes together the same categories she will use in examining each storyand provides arather good assessment ofthe state of Cather studies today. She notes the emphasis on Cather biography that continues to captivate critics, regretting that “All too few of the many articles on Cather’sfiction treat the stories as skillfully made objects—asworks of art.” She encourages the “equal attention” that Cather’s “craft deserves,”a useful Reviews 131 reminder, even if A Reader’s Guide to the Short Fiction of Willa Cather is not to provide such analytical insight or break any new critical ground itself. Rather, it should prove to be a well-worn volume on research shelves, well-used by those who recall some resonance or who have some sense of a connection across Cather’s career. It demonstrates how Cather explored and stored her major themes in these early works, only to bring them more fully forth in her mature fiction. KEVIN A. SYNNOTT The Sage Colleges Willa Cather. ByEdward Wagenknecht. (New York: Continuum Press, 1994. 203 pages, $19.95.) Edward Wagenknecht’s Willa Cather is a critical-biographical overview in the psychographic style Wagenknecht used in Nathaniel Hawthorne: Man and Writer (1961), Ralph Waldo Emerson: Portrait of a Balanced Soul (1972), and numerous other critical portraits. Like these studies, Willa Catheris organized topically rather than chronologically. Part 1 discusses Cather’s life, reading, theories offiction, and first books; Part 2 gives insightful and incisive interpre­ tations of the works themselves; and Part 3 analyzes Cather’s character and personality. Wagenknecht provides not only important details of Cather’s life but also a true sense ofCather as a person. His style is simply delightful—clear, concise, often dry and witty, as when he comments about Cather’s “fluttering the dovecotes” in Red Cloud with her oration on “Superstition versus Investiga...


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