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#0272: Willa Cather to Zoë Akins, [January 16 to 31, 1914]

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I've kept this three days, thinking I'd write a milder one. But if I say what I think, it would always be more or less like this. You ought to know that heartless kind of story is not in my kind, Zoë!

NUMBER FIVE BANK STREET3 Beaumont Pierce[?] Dear Z. A.1

Your exile is by this nearly over, I hope? I've been in Boston4—and in shops, which accounts for my not writing. This story5, my dear Zoe is written to be smart. You can't make me believe it was written for anything else. Now lots and lots of people are interested in cleverness and liveliness and the airy touch. I am not. So what can I say that's worth while about such a story as this, which seems to me to have nothing to do with human folk as I know them. Neither of the people seem to me individuals at all, and the episode—you can't expect one to take that seriously. It's phrased in a sprightly way, but that counts for nothing to me. I'm one-sided, so you may take that into account in reading what I say. Seems to me you are talking to hear yourself here—through your hat. Now when people talk through their hats, its all one to me what they talk about; murder and mistresses or tea and toast—they're merely names and no more; the toast is no warmer than the lady, or the lady than the toast. You go in too much for the far-fetched and queer because it's queer, to suit my farmer mind. There's either got to be real feeling in a story, or an intellectual interest of a high order. You can't dodge both issues and come it off over one by being queer. Now this is meant to be a scolding because I think you ought to be more in earnest and less interested in yourself and the part you make in the picture, and in what pep people think of you. I'm afraid you've been "spoiled" by proud parents. Can't you pull yourself out of it? Or don't you want to? You'll never do anything worth while as long as you flutter so. No, that's too strong; but you'll never work up to your best in that state of mind.

A serious New Years to you!

Hastily W. S. C.