Feels very happy about her letter. There were not so many serious admirations in one's life, and has long felt such admiration for Undset. Glad she had felt it in return. The fact that they care for the same things is a strong foundation for friendship. Sorry her handwriting is not clear. P.S.: So glad the good news from Russia! [The New York Times of Dec. 2, 1941, reports that the German Army had been driven out of Rostov in a "rout."] [Stout #1560]
Has received his letter but wants to think about proposal from Reader's Book Club. Not sure she wants her income increased, with income tax taking so much of it. Believes this would cut into regular sales. News from England very bad. Wonders if even Churchill is losing his strength. Undset's book about escape from Norway and journey through Russia is extraordinary. Wishes she had titled it more simply. Willa Cather. P.S.: Has thought about it and does not agree. [Stout #1571]
Please tell Carrie, will write as soon as possible. Was selecting some books from her shelf to send to military camps and found the enclosed about Prague; thought they would enjoy it. Has read Sigrid Undset's book about escape from Norway and except for the title likes it very much. Undset found Russia simply filthy but managed to take an interest in it nonetheless. Fears there will be strong public reaction against Undset's admiration for Japan, but she will not take back what she believes. Willie [Stout #1572]
Had first session with Léon Bakst yesterday. He pronounces his name like "boxed," but if one insists on making it sound mid-western, it can be pronounced to rhyme with "waxed." Please tell the family to learn how to pronounce it, as his name will be associated with hers often. Bakst's studio is made up of large rooms filled with gorgeous, meticulously arranged objects from Asia and Europe. In those rooms, it seems as if one is in a church dedicated to all the world's religions. Bakst is the kind of person she has always loved—like Annie Sadilek and Joe Pavelik Sr. and other childhood friends. Though he doesn't speak English well, he is trying to read One of Ours using a dictionary. He uses French to speak to her, and has told her fairy tales from Russia. Thankfully, he did not ask her to dress formally and is painting just her head and shoulders. He picked a green shirt she had, reminiscent of a Russian blouse. Sittings remind her of the days listening to Mr. Ducker as he spat tobacco juice, she is such a student to the master. Time will go quickly in those wonderful, scrupulously neat rooms. [Pasted at the top of the second page is a newspaper clipping in French listing results in horse races, including a horse named Red Cloud, with a note written by Cather pointing out that Red Cloud is winning in Paris.] Willa
Has been embarrassed to write after so long. Has put off writing everyone but mother and Jack, who was ill. Is mortified that she even neglected writing Mrs. Deland, for now her sick husband has died. It is the war that is causing the problems: it even makes writing books seem trivial. Can't make progress on the new book, and will probably have to rewrite or abandon it. Houghton Mifflin people are very displeased that it will not be ready for fall publication. There are good things in the new book, but it does not seem to be working. Is going to put it aside for a while and write some short stories—needs the money. Has Elsie heard that Rudyard Kipling's son, the prototype for Dan in the Puck tales, is missing in action? It has been over a year now, and hope seems lost. Mr. Greenslet, who just returned from England, said Kipling is devastated. What a shame, as Kipling has given so much joy to so many. Edith's health was good this winter. Helps Edith with eye treatments. They plan to go to Washington tonight. The war and resulting rise in costs have hurt the magazine publishing business. Has had many wonderful musical get-togethers with the Hambourgs, and had dinner with the recently-married Olive Fremstad and her husband [Harry L. Brainard and Fremstad were married November 4, 1916]. They had a fine evening. Has already written mother describing it. People she knows in the British war department say the war will go on at least two years. When Greenslet was in London, he had trouble getting decent food and enough of it, and many buildings had to go without heat. Newspapers aren't really providing the whole story: if not for the entrance of the United States, the allies would have been defeated, for the submarines prevented proper food from getting to the army. Germany's food supply is much better than that in England and France. If the U.S. can produce enough ships and men, the allies may yet win in two years. If not, we will all be Prussian. The Russians can't hold the eastern front unless the allies keep Germany tied down in France. If not, St. Petersburg will soon fall, and then the German army will be fed from the vast agricultural output of Russia. The U.S. has a unique opportunity: we can protect or lose Democracy for the entire planet. And yet a letter from her Mesa Verde guide claims the war is taken as a joke out west. Like Russia, the U.S. is so enormous we can't get things together. Believe it: dark times are ahead. Needs to stop now, but hopes to be better about writing in the future. Willie.