The Big Read Blog (Archive)


Washington, DC
December 7, 2009

Willa Cather photographed by Carl Van Vechten, January 22, 1936. From Library of Congress Carl Van Vechten collection.

Happy Birthday to Willa Cather, who was born in Back Creek Valley, Virginia, 136 years ago today. In May 1925, Cather traveled to Brunswick, Maine, to present a lecture as part of Bowdoin College's "Institute of Modern Literature." As reported in the evening edition of  the Boston Globe, here's an excerpt of the author's thoughts on technique and the novel. (If you're interested in reading more of Cather's speeches, public letters, and interviews, browse the Willa Cather archives hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.)

"Technique, as it applies to a novel, is full of faults, as nearly all great novels have great blemishes from the standpoint of technique. Novels live by their plusses, not by their minuses. They live because of what they have, not because of what they lack. You cannot improve on the technique of a great writer, because his faults are necessary. Laboratory methods are best in science, but have no place in art."

Learn more about Willa Cather and My Antonia from The Big Read educational materials.


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