Willa Cather, fully Willa Sibert Cather
I doubt whether any contemporary writer has made one feel more keenly the many kinds of personal relations which exist in an everyday ?happy family? who are merely going on living their daily lives, with no crises or shocks or bewildering complications to try them. Yet every individual in that household (even the children) is clinging passionately to his individual soul, is in terror of losing it in the general family flavor. As in most families, the mere struggle to have anything of one?s own, to be one?s self at all, creates an element of strain which keeps everybody almost at the breaking-point.
In those simple relationships of loving husband and wife, affectionate sisters, children and grandmother, there are innumerable shades of sweetness and anguish which make up the pattern of our lives day by day, though they are not down in the list of subjects from which the conventional novelist works?
One realizes that even in harmonious families there is this double life: the group life, which is the one we can observe in our neighbor?s household, and, underneath, another ? secret and passionate and intense ? which is the real life that stamps the faces and gives character to the voices of our friends. Always in his mind each member of these social units is escaping, running away, trying to break the net which circumstances and his own affections have woven about him. One realizes that human relationships are the tragic necessity of human life; that they can never be wholly satisfactory, that every ego is half the time greedily seeking them, and half the time pulling away from them.
These secret accords and antipathies which lie hidden under our everyday behavior ? more than any outward events make our lives happy or unhappy.
There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.
This was the road over which Ántonia and I came on that night when we got off the train at Black Hawk and were bedded down in the straw, wondering children, being taken we knew not whither. I had only to close my eyes to hear the rumbling of the wagons in the dark, and to be again overcome by that obliterating strangeness. The feelings of that night were so near that I could reach out and touch them with my hand. I had the sense of coming home to myself, and of having found out what a little circle man’s experience is. For Ántonia and for me, this had been the road of Destiny; had taken us to those early accidents of fortune which predetermined for us all that we can ever be. Now I understood that the same road was to bring us together again. Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.
What was any art but an effort to make a sheath, a mold in which to imprison for a moment the shining, elusive element which is life itself — life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose?
You feel that, properly, Alexandra's house is the big-out-of-doors, and that it is in the soil that she expresses herself.
There is a popular superstition that "realism" asserts itself in the cataloguing of a great number of material objects, in explaining mechanical processes, the methods of operating manufactories and trades, and in minutely and unsparingly describing physical sensations. But is not realism, more than it is anything else, an attitude of mind on the part of the writer toward his material, a vague indication of the sympathy and candor with which he accepts, rather than chooses, his theme?
To be sure, the Bishop was a little theatrical in his humility, as he had been in his grandeur; but that was his way, Auclair reflected, and, after all, nobody can help his way. If a man admits his mistakes, that is a great deal...
Whatever is felt upon the page without being specifically named there — that, one might say, is created. It is the inexplicable presence of the thing not named, of the overtone divined by the ear but not heard by it, the verbal mood, the emotional aura of the fact or the thing or the deed, that gives high quality to the novel or the drama, as well as to poetry itself.
You know that my spells come from God, and that I would not harm any living creature. You believe that everyone should worship God in the way revealed to him. But that is not the way of this country. The way here is for all to do alike. I am despised because I do not wear shoes, because I do not cut my hair, and because I have visions. At home, in the old country, there were many like me, who had been touched by God, or who had seen things in the graveyard at night and were different afterward. We thought nothing of it, and let them alone. But here, if a man is different in his feet or in his head, they put him in the asylum. . . . That is the way; they have built the asylum for people who are different, and they will not even let us live in the holes with the badgers.
There is often a good deal of the child left in people who have had to grow up too soon.
To fulfill the dreams of one's youth; that is the best that can happen to a man. No worldly success can take the place of that.
Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.
You must not begin to fret about the successes of cheap people. After all, what have they to do with you?
There is only one big thing-desire. And before it, when it is big, all is little.
To note an artist's limitations is but to define his talent. A reporter can write equally well about everything that is presented to his view, but a creative writer can do his best only with what lies within the range and character of his deepest sympathies.
When kindness has left people, even for a few moments, we become afraid of them as if their reason had left them. When it has left a place where we have always found it, it is like shipwreck; we drop from security into something malevolent and bottomless.
You, you too?' he breathed in amazement. He took up one of her gloves and began drawing it out through his fingers. She siad nothing, but he saw her lip quiver, and she turned away and began looking at the house through the glasses. He likewise began to examine the audience. He wished he knew how it seemed to her. He had been mistaken, he felt. The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one's own.
There seemed to be nothing to see; no fences, no creeks or trees, no hills or fields. If there was a road, I could not make it out in the faint starlight. There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made.
To people off alone, as we were, there is something stirring about finding evidences of human labour and care in the soil of an empty country. It comes to you as a sort of message, makes you feel differently about the ground you walk over every day.
When people ask me if it has been a hard or easy road, I always answer with the same quotation, the end is nothing, the road is all.
Your vivid, exciting companionship in the office must not be your audience, you must find your own quiet center of life, and write from that to the world.
There was a curious social situation in Black Hawk. All the young men felt the attraction of the fine, well-set-up country girls who had come to town to earn a living, and, in nearly every case, to help the father struggle out of debt, or to make it possible for the younger children of the family to go to school.