I never planned to write another biography of Cather, but after the death in 1983 of Bernice Slote, who had spent nearly a lifetime gathering material for the definitive biography, I decided to return to the project, and I have been able to use her papers.My present view of Cather does not change in any basic way the image of her contained in my earlier book.Fortunately, correspondents who outlived her had the good sense to realize that Cather belongs to the world and her letters ought to be preserved.It is still impossible to publish or quote from her letters (her will forbids it), but they are available for consultation, and the information they contain is public property.Sir Isaac Newton in a letter to his rival scientist Robert Hooke wrote in 1676 that "if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." I feel somewhat the same in writing Cather's biography four decades after her death.
She was on the scene in Red Cloud and able to interview old friends and relatives.
She certainly made the task of writing her life more difficult; yet she and other writers who have wanted to cover their tracks always have been doomed to failure.
Still, one envies the chroniclers of those public figures who carefully saved for posterity the documentation of their lives.
She made no effort to be accurate in recalling facts, and it is hard sometimes to tell where the reality leaves off and the fiction begins.
The biographer continually has to separate the fact from the fantasy, and he never can be sure he has succeeded completely.
Knopf tried his best to preserve Cather's privacy, but it was difficult.