- Text Analysis
Interviewed at the Grand Central station, where she was waiting for a train one hot July day, Willa Cather said:
"Yes, I'm getting out of town—it's rather evident. No, not west this time. I have just come back from three months in New Mexico. Now, I'm going up into New England."
"What part of New England?"
"Oh, several places! Mr. Knopf and Mr. Reynolds will always have my address if you should wish to reach me about something important. Seriously, I'm going away to work and don't want to be bothered."
"But this is vacation time."
"I've just had a long vacation in New Mexico. I need a rest from resting."
"Are you beginning a new novel?"
"No, I'm in the middle of one."
"When will it be published?"
"The book? About a year from now. The serial publication will begin sometime this winter. I want to finish the manuscript by the middle of February and get abroad in the early spring."
"I suppose, Miss Cather, it's no use to ask you for the title. You told me several years ago that you never announced the title of a new book until it was completed."
"Did I tell you that? Well, this time I'll make an exception. I don't like to get into a rut about anything. I call this book Death Comes for the Archbishop."
"And the scene?"
"Oh, that remains to be seen! My train is called."
"One general question on the way down, please. What do you consider the greatest obstacle American writers have to overcome?"
"Well, what do other writers tell you?"
"Some say commercialism, and some say prohibition."
"I don't exactly agree with either. I should say it was the lecture bug. In this country a writer has to hide and lie and almost steal in order to get time to work in—and peace of mind to work with. Besides, lecturing is very dangerous for writers. If we lecture, we get a little more owlish and self-satisfied all the time. We hate it at first, if we are decently modest, but in the end we fall in love with the sound of our own voice. There is something insidious about it, destructive to one's finer feelings. All human beings, apparently, like to speak in public. The timid man becomes bold, the man who has never had an opinion about anything becomes chock full of them the moment he faces an audience. A woman, alas becomes even fuller! Really, I've seen people's reality quite destroyed by the habit of putting on a rostrum front. It's especially destructive to writers, even so much worse than alcohol, takes their edge off."
"But why, why?"
"Certainly, I can't tell you now. He's calling 'all aboard.' Try it out yourself; go lecture to a Sunday school or a class of helpless infants anywhere, and you'll see how puffed-up and important you begin to feel. You'll want to do it right over again. But don't! Goodbye."