Download AMERICAN WRITERS, Retrospective Supplement I by A. Walton Litz PDF

By A. Walton Litz

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

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Stories take many guises in Gather's fiction: they can be the simple conversations farm people have with each other; the myths and religions that structure the worlds of Native Americans, Mexicans, and Anglos in New Mexico; the rituals of cooking and housekeeping that are passed down from mother to daughter in Quebec; the music that inspires Lucy Gayheart; and the inherited folktales and legends that Gather received from the old women in Virginia that underlie Sapphira and the Slave Girl. There are common threads, however, that weave together Gather's more optimistic early fiction and her darker later fiction.

But in the face of her critics Gather was publishing a novel centered on women and set in the nineteenth century, a decision she must have known would not please the left-wing reviewers. The independence Gather showed in writing Sapphira during her decade of trouble with critics is evident also in the novel's unusual form. This apparently conventional historical novel ends with an unusual epilogue. Instead of continuing the novel's fiction, the epilogue is a personal essay in which Gather tells the story of the real-life event that gave rise to her novel—the reunion she, as a child, had witnessed between an African American mother and daughter.

The language is hyperbolic, dramatizing the voice of the speaker, who seems to be experiencing an inner struggle. What is going on in this poem? It encrypts a recognizable experience. Someone has given the speaker a strange look that makes her feel out of place. She wonders if a tiny smile would have been too much to expect. If only that woman knew how little it took to satisfy me; she could have just tossed me a crumb. But what does the line "So much Summer" have to do with this situation? Suppose it's a busy summer in Amherst, the summer of 1862.

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