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#0750: Willa Cather to Mr. Miller, October 24, 1924

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My dear Mr. Miller1:

I am so sorry my writing vexes you, and it will continue to vex you.! I do not in the least agree with your assumption that one kind of writing is right and another kind is wrong. I write at all because it pleases and amuses me - and I write in the way that pleases and amuses me. I had a perfectly good reason for writing "Antonia"3 in the first person4, masculine - and I did not for one minute try to "talk like a man". Such a thing as humbugging any one never accurred to me. It does not matter who tells a story. It is merely a point of view, a position which the writer takes in regard to his material; just as a painter must first decide what his position is to be in regard to whatever he is going to sketch.

Again, there is one kind of story that ought to tell itself - the story of action. There is another kind of story that ought to be told - I mean the emotional story, which tries to be much more like music than it tries to be like drama - the story that tries to evoke and leave merely a picture - a mood. That was what Conrad5 tried to do, and he did it well. I wholly disagree with you regarding Jeane Christophe6 and Pelle the Conqueror7. Do either of these books tell themselves8? Not for a minute.! I should say that Jeane is one of the most subjective books written in the last twenty-five years. Where do you find any steady flow of action in that, my good man? Do you mean to say that Rolland9 is not Christophe, and that he is not explaining and diagraming his emotions every minute? What is that kind of "description" but explaining - explaining under a very thin disguise. I think I shall begin every story hereafter with:; "We will begin our story on a winter evening in the late seventies" or something of that sort. That is a frank, honest way to begin. It is a story, and "we" are doing it, and we might as well admit it. I think the two greatest writers of fiction in modern times were Count Tolstoi10 and Ivan Turgenev11, and I think they were equally magnificent in their achievement. Their methods were absolutely opposite, and I think both methods are entirely admirable.

You see, I pay you the compliment of coming back at you with some spirt. I should like to have a chance to argue it out with you. I admire Nexoö12 just as much as you do, but that is only one of the dozen fine ways of writing.

Cordially yours, Willa Cather