Monday, December 7, 2020

Happy birthday, Willa Cather

Willa Cather was born on this day in 1873. From a letter to her lifelong friend Carrie Miner Sherwood, January 27, 1934:

Now I don’t often write, even to my dearest friends, about my own work, but you just tuck this away where you can read it and when people puzzle you, or come at you and say that I idealize everything and exaggerate everything, you can turn to this letter and comfort yourself. The one and sole reason that my “exaggerations” get across, get across a long way (Antonia has now been translated into eight languages), is that these things were not exaggerations to me. I felt just like that about all those early people. If I had exaggerated my real feeling or stretched it one inch, the whole book would have fallen as flat as a pancake, and would have been a little ridiculous. There is just one thing you cannot fake or counterfeit in this world, my dear Carrie, and that is real feeling, feeling in people who try to govern their hearts with their heads.

I did not start out to write you a long lecture, but someday I might get bumped off by an automobile, and then you’d be glad to have a statement which is just as true as I have the power to make it.

                                    My heart to you always,

The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, ed. Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout (New York: Knopf, 2013).
Related reading
All OCA Cather posts (Pinboard)

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