Our story this month for the Willa Cather Short Story Project is “On the Gulls’ Road,” published in McClure’s Magazine in December 1908. You can read it on the Willa Cather Archive here: https://cather.unl.edu/writings/shortfiction/ss007
1908 was an important year for Cather. In March, she met Sarah Orne Jewett, an established, older writer whose work Cather admired. At the time, Cather was a busy New York City magazine editor temporarily residing in Boston on a research assignment. Jewett lived in Boston with her partner Annie Fields.
Although their friendship was cut short due to Jewett’s death in June 1909, the older writer was a creative and life mentor to Cather. Jewett’s “Boston Marriage” with Fields may have become a model for Cather’s own life with Edith Lewis, as Melissa Homestead writes in The Only Wonderful Things: The Creative Partnership of Willa Cather & Edith Lewis.
In early 1908, Cather mailed Jewett a copy of a new short story, “On the Gulls’ Road.” Jewett wrote back that she liked the story. Her one criticism was that perhaps the story needn’t be told from a male narrator’s point of view. Jewett considered the male narrator “a masquerade” and went on to write that, Cather “could instead do it ‘as yourself—a woman could love her [Mrs Alexander Ebbling] in that same protecting way—a woman could even care enough to wish to take her away from such a life’” (quoted by Jewell in “The Story Behind the 1908 Sarah Orne Jewett Letter”).
It will be interesting to read “On the Gulls’ Road” with Jewett’s suggestion in mind.
Read “On the Gulls’ Road” sometime this month then come back to discuss it on the response post I’ll share on November 22nd. Or, feel free to read it now and comment here if you can’t wait until then!
New to this blog? Learn more about the Willa Cather Short Story Project here. In a nutshell, we read one Cather short story a month. I remind everyone of what story we’re reading on the second Wednesday of the month and then share a response on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Jump in anytime!