WCU professor co-edits book of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings quotes
Brent Kinser, associate professor of English at Western Carolina University, co-edited the recently published Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s Cross Creek Sampler: A Book of Quotations.
Rawlings, an author who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1939 for “The Yearling,” lived in Cross Creek, Fla., and named her autobiographical work after the community.
Meredith Babb, director of the University Press of Florida, asked Kinser, past president of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society, and Rodger Tarr, a Rawlings scholar and University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Illinois State University, to develop a book of Rawlings’s quotes.
Kinser, who started working on the project about three years ago, remarks, “There is a great quote in the book, from her ‘Cross Creek,’ which we chose for the epigraph – ‘The universe breathed, and the world inside it breathed the same breath. This was the cosmic life, with suns and moons to make it lovely. It is important only to keep close enough to the pulse to feel its rhythm, to be comforted by its steadiness, and to know that Life is vital, and one’s own minute living a torn fragment of the larger cloth.’”
Kinser and Tarr limited the works from which to choose quotes to Rawlings’s novels and short fiction from 1928 to 1953 – the Florida period.
The editors grappled with organizing the categories for the quotes. Something Rawlings wrote that might appear to be about autumn may also be an expression of eternity; or what might fit in the section called “earth” could just as easily work in sections called “time,” “place” or “stewardship,” said Kinser.
In addition to struggling with organizing the pieces and excerpts in a way that truly represented Rawlings’s work as a whole, the editors worked hard to select an appropriate title for the book, said Kinser.
“Cross Creek Sampler” was originally suggested by Babb and her staff. “Rodger and I thought ‘candy,’ as in Whitman’s Sampler, but our spouses, to whom the book is dedicated, immediately drew the connection with needlework,” said Kinser. “The title really grew on us, especially after we saw the cover and the design of the work, which featured a lot of vintage images that help to create the kind of unified feel we were looking for.”
Kinser said he was honored to again work on a book with Tarr, his mentor. The duo co-edited “The Uncollected Writings of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings,” which was published in 2007.
Tarr taught at Illinois State with Kinser’s father and the three of them would play catch when Kinser was a boy.
“When I went back to school, I sought him out, and he took me under his wing,” said Kinser. “He is like my second father, and I owe him a lot.”
Kinser also worked with Tarr on an edition of a book of Rawlings’s love letters and Thomas Carlyle’s “Sartor Resartus.”
For more information, contact Kinser at 828-227-3933 or firstname.lastname@example.org.