“The Enchanted Bluff” Willa Cather Short Story Project Reminder July 2020

Screen shot from the Willa Cather Archive website (source)

Our story for July is “The Enchanted Bluff.”

We are making some serious progress on our quest to read all of Willa Cather’s short fiction. So far we’ve read seventeen stories in the four collections pictured above.

Our next group of stories will be from another posthumous collection, Five Stories, which was published by Vintage Books in 1956. The first edition cover (below) was designed by Alvin Lustig (1915–1955).

Five Stories includes:
1. The Best Years
2. Paul’s Case
3. The Enchanted Bluff
4. Tom Outland’s Story
5. An essay by George N. Kate on Cather’s unfinished Avignon story

“The Enchanted Bluff”

We’ve already read the first two stories, which are included in previous collections, so our story for July is “The Enchanted Bluff.”

This story was published in Harper’s in April 1909. Click here to read the story via the Willa Cather Archive where you can also see the original magazine drawings for the story by Howard E. Smith as well as scans of the magazine pages. This is a Nebraska and western story, which I know will make many of you happy.

In October 1908, Cather sent “The Enchanted Bluff” to her mentor, the writer Sarah Orne Jewett. Cather told Jewett that her boss, the publisher S.S. McClure, and Edward L. Burlingame, editor of Scribner’s, both sniffed at the story. She writes on,

“which I somehow think might interest you a little–because it is different from the things you knew when you were a child [in Maine]. In the West we had a kind of Latin influence, as you had an English one. We had so many Spanish words, just as you had words left over from Chaucer. Even the cow-boy saddle, you know, is an old Spanish model. There was something heady in the wind that blew up from Mexico. I make bold to send this scorned tale (Mr. McClure says it is all introduction) and I pray you cast your eye upon it in some empty half hour. It is about a place a weary long way from South Berwick [Maine].”

Read the full letter here: https://cather.unl.edu/writings/letters/let0140

I’ll be thinking about those winds from Mexico as I read this story.

What’s Next?

Read “The Enchanted Bluff” sometime this month. I’ll have my response post up on Wednesday, July 22th. Come back to share your thoughts about this story on that post or, if you can’t wait, feel free to leave a comment here.

Happy Reading!

New to this blog? 

Learn more about the Willa Cather Short Story Project here. In a nutshell, we’re reading one Cather short story a month. I remind everyone what story we’re reading on the second Wednesday of the month and then share a response to that story on the fourth Wednesday of the month, which I hope sparks conversation about the story.

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