January 2020 Reminder: The Willa Cather Short Story Project

First Edition

Our last story of 2019 was the last story in Cather’s 1920 collection, Youth and the Bright Medusa. This month we kick off reading stories from Cather’s last short story collection published during her lifetime, Obscure Destinies (1932).

“Neighbour Rosicky” is our story for January. It was first published in the Woman’s Home Companion in the spring of 1930. Set in Nebraska, it’s the story of a Czech farmer whose doctor tells him he has a bad heart.

Obscure Destinies contains three longer short stories, all set in the American West. It’s still under copyright in the U.S., so there’s no free online version to link to (at least not legally).

Cather wrote in a letter that,

“Those three stories are, everyone one of them, very near to my heart, for personal reasons. Moreover, I want to do all I can to overcome the provincial American prejudice against stories of that length. This is the only country in which stories of that length are dismissed rather lightly as minor pieces, simply because they are short. . . . The long short story has always held such a dignified and important place in French literature that I wish it might command that same position in our own country.”

Letter to John Sexton Kennedy, November 1, 1932, from The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, eds, Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout, 2013.

Now, To Read!

Read “Neighbour Rosicky” in the next few weeks and come back to discuss it. I’ll have my reaction post here on the blog the morning of January 22 and invite you to join in with your thoughts, whether this month or anytime in the future. If you can’t wait until then, feel free to leave your comments on this post.

If you’re new to the Willa Cather Short Story Project, click here to learn more.

Willa Cather Book Club

Also, if you’re in or near Connecticut, the Willa Cather Book Club will meet on Thursday, January 16, at 2pm to discuss Cather’s 1932 novel, The Shadows on the Rock. We meet at the Wood Memorial Library and Museum in South Windsor, CT.

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