Remembering Willa Cather: A Writer Who Towered Over The Prairie





Willa Cather won the Pulitzer Prize and appeared on the cover of Time magazine when that meant something. She gained critical and eventual commercial success for books like "O Pioneers!" and "My Antonia" and wrote one of the great books of the 20th century, "Death Comes for the Archbishop." Her work is secure in the American literary canon. ... Tonight, PBS's "American Masters" reintroduces her to us in a 90-minute documentary, a solid, earnest effort written and co-produced by Christine Lesiak.

Willa Cather won the Pulitzer Prize and appeared on the cover of Time magazine when that meant something. She gained critical and eventual commercial success for books like "O Pioneers!" and "My Antonia" and wrote one of the great books of the 20th century, "Death Comes for the Archbishop." Her work is secure in the American literary canon.


And yet she is a faint name on academic reading lists today. High school and college students usually make her passing acquaintance and then move briskly to Zadie Smith. To many, she is dated and quaint, tied indelibly to the heroic idealism of the immigrant pioneer experience on the American Plains. What she is not in this postmodern world, aside from feminist dinner parties, is in play.


Tonight, PBS's "American Masters" reintroduces her to us in a 90-minute documentary, a solid, earnest effort written and co-produced by Christine Lesiak. Marcia Gay Harden is the voice of Cather and David Strathairn narrates each to good effect. The inevitable reenactment scenes from her novels are bearable. This show will be best appreciated by those already familiar with Cather because there is a fair amount of inside baseball about her writing that may flummox newcomers.

TELEVISION REVIEW WILLA CATHER: THE ROAD IS ALL ON: WGBH, CH. 2, AS PART OF"AMERICAN MASTERS" TIME: TONIGHT, 9-10:30


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