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Cather, Willa.

Youth and the Bright Medusa.


Cather, Willa. Youth And The Bright Medusa. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, (1925).
12mo.; purple cloth; tips lightly bumped; some light rubbing.
First edition, sixth printing, Borzoi Pocket Book Series No. 29; 3000 sets of sheets printed, 1500 bound: Crane A presentation copy, inscribed: To Isabelle [McClung,] a little book for travel, with my love, Willa.
Youth And The Bright Medusa was the first of Cather's books to be published by Knopf, and the reviews "more than justified Knopf's faith in his new author." The Bookman praised Cather's ability to get under the skin of her characters while maintaining her firm sense of detachment. The Dial suggested that "as studies of success, of the successful, of the victims of big careers... above all the quality of ambition in women, the stories were unsurpassed." And The Nation found the book "one of the truest, most serious and poetical interpretations of American life."
Upon being informed of the existence of this inscribed copy, Sharon O'Brien, a leading contemporary biographer of Cather, pointed out that McClung's role of "lover, mother, patron, and muse" in Cather's life for almost forty years led her to believe that McClung was "the one person for whom all [Cather's] books had been written." Indeed, the two major books that preceded this work-The Troll Garden and The Song Of The Lark-were both dedicated to McClung. Cather and McClung met at school. They immediately became inseparable; after graduation, in a highly unorthodox arrangement, Cather moved in with Isabelle and her family, with whom she lived for years. McClung married violinist Jan Hambourg in 1916, but still remained on intimate terms with Cather. Not until visiting the couple in 1923 did Cather "discover or realize at least that the break with McClung would last." In a recent letter O'Brien found "this inscribed copy important proof of their continuing relationship." Certainly this little volume with its affectionate inscription is one of the few bits of surviving evidence of the abiding feelings Cather and McClung shared for each other in the years following their parting. After Isabelle's 1938 death, Cather retrieved her letters from the McClung family and burned them.

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