AMERICAN WRITERS, Retrospective Supplement I by A. Walton Litz

By A. Walton Litz

This choice of severe and biographical articles covers amazing authors from the seventeenth century to the current day.

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That air would disappear from the whole earth in time, perhaps; but long after his day. He did not know just when it had become so necessary to him, but he had come back to die in exile for the sake of it. Something soft and wild and free, something that whispered to the ear on the pillow, lightened the heart, softly, softly, picked the lock, slid the bolts, and released the prisoned spirit of man into the wind, into the blue and gold, into the morning, into the morning! Willa Gather's last years, which coincided with the outbreak of World War II, were not easy ones.

The early letters to Abiah are full of news and questions about mutual friends. Quickly, though, Emily begins to sound fearful that Abiah no longer cares about her. " Now, she thought, it was too late, and she could not honestly say that her only desire was to be good (L 23). In a letter written late in 1850, Emily contrasted herself with Abiah and another childhood friend. They were becoming women, engaging in good works and learning "control and firmness," but Emily loved "to be a child" and to let her imagination wander: "Oh I love the danger*" (L 39).

One of them, "Old Mrs. Harris," is the most autobiographical story Gather ever wrote. In this story, concerned with the legacy of love and power and misunderstanding that connects a grandmother, mother, and daughter, Gather portrays her female relatives, and her own younger self, with compassion and reflective understanding. Doubtless prompted by her mother's death, the story shows Gather coming to terms with her own past. In the fall of 1932 Gather and Lewis finally moved from the Grosvenor Hotel to an apartment on Park Avenue, and Gather was happy to be reunited with all the belongings she had kept in storage for five years.

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