148 Charles Street

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Article number: Daugherty 148CS
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Tracy Daugherty’s historical novel 148 Charles Street explores the fascinating story of Willa Cather’s friendship with Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant. The women shared a passion for writing, for New York, and for the desert Southwest, but their sensibilities could not have been more different: Cather, the novelist of lyrical landscapes and aesthetic refinement, and Sergeant, the muckraking journalist and literary activist. Their friendship is sorely tested when Cather fictionalizes a war that Sergeant covered as a reporter, calling into question, for both women, the uses of art and journalism, the power of imagination and witness. 148 Charles Street is a testament to the bonds that endure despite disagreements and misunderstandings, and in the relentlessness of a vanishing past.

148 Charles Street explores, as only fiction can, the two writers’ interior lives, and contrasts Sergeant’s literary activism with Cather’s more purely aesthetic approach to writing.

• University of Nebraska Press (Bison Books): April 2022, Paperback, 158 pages


About the Author

Tracy Daugherty is distinguished emeritus professor of English and Creative Writing at Oregon State University. In addition to biographies of Joan Didion and Joseph Heller, he has published several novels, including High SkiesAxeman’s JazzThe Boy OratorDesire Provoked, and What Falls Away.



"Deftly crafted writing, a genuine flair for portraying memorable characters, attention to historical detail, 148 Charles Street is an eloquent, entertaining, and thought-provoking read from first page to last."—Midwest Book Review

“I can think of few novelists who have written so unerringly about literary ambition, especially in women. In this quietly passionate book, Tracy Daugherty follows Willa Cather and her friend, journalist and social reformer Elsie Shepley Sergeant, through their long, ardent battle over the purpose of art, a conflict waged from the most refined salon in Boston all the way to a ruined adobe hut in New Mexico. What superb company they are, because of their differences, and what gorgeously detailed worlds they inhabit. This is a novel with so much heart, written with such deep intelligence, that I felt wiser and more humane myself by the end of it.” —Suzanne Berne, author of A Crime in the Neighborhood and The Dogs of Littlefield


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