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#2636: Willa Cather to Alfred A. Knopf, September 3, [1931]

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B K 9/9 Dear Alfred1;

With this letter I am sending Miss Aaron3 two short stories4 for the volume5 of which "Neighbor Rosicky"6 will make a third. I hope that you and Blanche7 will read them both before Miss Aaron starts out to sell them8. "Old Mrs. Harris" is the more interesting, perhaps; but I think "Two Friends" is the best short story I have ever done. It's a little like a picture by Courbet9; has that queer romantic sort of realism. It is so 'American' of thirty years ago that when I look it over I quite forget who wrote it. When you do a thing that is so indigenous that the greatest foreign master couldn't have done it, then, it seems to me, you bring home the bacon, even though it's but a sketch- - a painter's subject done in a painter's way.

"Mrs. Harris", too, is very Western, and it's much more of a story; but it's the two 'business men'10 I'm proud of.

I sent you a wire11 about the jacket for the fourth edition12. I don't want to play the Atlantic13 article14 too hard, and as the third edition jacket will be small type and close set, why ns not have the fourth made up ofshort extracts andwith more space .? I wish you would send me a proof of that drawing of a black rock15 you said you might sometime use on a jacket. It rather struck me at the time, and I'd like to see it again.

I suppose that awful Good Housekeeping16 portrait17 is good publicity18; it's bringing in a flood of letters from the queerest kind of people, splashy ladies on Park Avenue and farmers' wives in Minnesota19, all equally unable to write an English sentence.

Speaking of reviews, the worst I ever got were for "Antonia"20.: I got them from a clipping bureau in those days , and read them ,. aAnd in the whole United States there were just three21 enthusiastic ones22; Fanny Butcher23, Grant Overton24 in25 the Sun26, and some Philadelphia paper. All the others27 said it wasn't a good story and it wasn't good English; it was a mass of notes to be read at a Grange meeting and not a book at all. "A Lost Lady"28 and "Youth and the Bright Medusa"29 were the only books that got good reviews. This time12 it's only the New York30 notices31 that are spiteful ( publicity apropos of degrees32 and such things always antagonizes a lot of journalists). The papers in the chain of cities across the country are all cordial and friendly, even if they don't like this book so well as others.

With warmest regards to everyone in the office, Willa Cather