#2687: Willa Cather to Alfred A. Knopf, August 12 [1936]

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Dear Alfred1;

Thank you very much for the books you sent me some time ago. Mrs. Undset3's book4 is surely one of her best—there is something awfully fine and fateful about it. It reads like a translation of a fine narrative poem—grandly norse.

Conrad Richter5 is surely a man worth watching. When he writes of things that really interest him his sentences have a thrill, they flash into pictures, have a certain tone color. All this means of course that he has some real imagination,—and some red blood.

But I don’t think you will ever get anything very interesting from Miss Thomas6. She has none of Richter’s qualities. She never gets a thrill out of anything, never has any unusual perception or feeling. Dull, plodding, lifeless prose, as if she were packing a trunk for someone else, and trying conscientiously to put in all everything in. There is no fire in her, and no imagination. She says everything in the flattest possible way. Take a single sentence7 like that at top of page 126 of Richter’s book8; Miss Thomas could never write a sentence like that, though its only merit is that the man saw something with interest and told it vividly. He is alive and writes with some vitality. You can’t find one [illegible] paragraph in her book9 like that one—which, after all, merely communicates information about a dry autumn. She is of the Suckow10 breed, but much more limited.

If you have Mrs. Undset's “The Ax11 and the “The Snake Pit”12 in the old one volume edition13, not the one volume edition, will you please send them up to me?

I’ll rush the page proofs14 back to you if they are sent properly by mail and reach me promptly.

I hope you and Pat15 had a splendid vacation16.

Yours W. S. C. AUG 17 1936 K8/18