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Willa Cather

"Even the wicked get worse than they deserve."

Willa Cather, Alexander's Bridge (1912)

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"No one can build his security on the nobleness of another person."

Willa Cather, Alexander's Bridge (1912)

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"The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman."

Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (1913)

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"This land was an enigma. It was like a horse that no one knows how to break to harness, that runs wild and kicks things to pieces."

Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (1913)

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"A pioneer should have imagination, should be able to enjoy the idea of things more than the things themselves."

Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (1913)

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"... there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before ..."

Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (1913)

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"I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do."

Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (1913)

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"Her secret? It is every artist's secret ... passion. That is all. It is an open secret, and perfectly safe. Like heroism, it is inimitable in cheap materials."

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"... what was any art but an effort to make a sheath, a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining, elusive element which is life itself, -- life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose?"

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"I tell you, there is such a thing as creative hate!"

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness. The stupid believe that to be truthful is easy; only the artist, the great artist, knows how difficult it is."

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"The summer moon hung full in the sky. For the time being it was the great fact of the world."

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"She would take any amount of trouble to avoid trouble."

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"One may have staunch friends in one's own family, but one seldom has admirers."

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"He had the uneasy manner of a man who is not among his own kind, and who has not seen enough of the world to feel that all people are in some sense his own kind."

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"A child's attitude toward everything is an artist's attitude."

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm."

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"Thea was still under the belief that public opinion could be placated; that if you clucked often enough, the hens would mistake you for one of themselves."

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"There is only one big thing -- desire. And before it, when it is big, all is little."

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"If youth did not matter so much to itself, it would never have the heart to go on."

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"All the intelligence and talent in the world can't make a singer. The voice is a wild thing. It can't be bred in captivity."

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

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"The only thing very noticeable about Nebraska was that it was still, all day long, Nebraska."

Willa Cather, My Antonia (1918)

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"There was only -- spring itself, the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere; in the sky, in the swift clouds, in the pale sunshine, and in the warm high wind -- rising suddenly, sinking suddenly, impulsive ... If I had been tossed down blindfold on that red prairie, I should have known that it was spring."

Willa Cather, My Antonia (1918)

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"The pale, cold light of the winter sunset did not beautify -- it was like the light of truth itself."

Willa Cather, My Antonia (1918)

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"... that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep. "

Willa Cather, My Antonia (1918)

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"Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen. "

Willa Cather, My Antonia (1918)

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"On the farm the weather was the great fact, and men's affairs went on underneath it, as the streams creep under the ice."

Willa Cather, My Antonia (1918)

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"Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again."

Willa Cather, My Antonia (1918)

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"In time they quarrelled, of course, and about an abstraction -- as young people often do, as mature people almost never do."

Willa Cather, "Coming, Aphrodite!" Youth and the Bright Medusa (1920)

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"An artist's saddest secrets are those that have to do with his artistry."

Willa Cather, "The Diamond Mine," Youth and the Bright Medusa (1920)

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"... he knew now, more than ever, that money was everything, the wall that stood between all he loathed and all he wanted."

Willa Cather, "Paul's Case," Youth and the Bright Medusa (1920)

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"... youth, when it is hurt, likes to feel itself betrayed."

Willa Cather, One of Ours (1922)

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"The dead might as well try to speak to the living as the old to the young."

Willa Cather, One of Ours (1922)

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"Merely having seen the season change in a country gave one the sense of having been there for a long time."

Willa Cather, One of Ours (1922)

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"So blind is life, so long at last is sleep, / And none but Love to bid us laugh or weep."

Willa Cather, "Evening Song," April Twilights (1923)

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"... he loved youth -- he was weak to it, it kindled him. If there was one eager eye, one doubting, critical mind, one lively curiosity in a whole lecture-room full of commonplace boys and girls, he was its servant. That ardor could command him. "

Willa Cather, The Professor's House (1925)

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"The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one's own."

Willa Cather, The Professor's House (1925)

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"Theoretically he knew that life is possible, may be even pleasant, without joy, without passionate griefs. But it had never occurred to him that he might have to live like that."

Willa Cather, The Professor's House (1925)

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"... every good story ... must leave in the mind of the sensitive reader an intangible residuum of pleasure; a cadence, a quality of voice that is exclusively the writer's own, individual, unique."

Willa Cather, preface, The Best Short Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett (1925)

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"To note an artist's limitations is but to define his genius. A reporter can write equally well about everything that is presented to his view, but a creative writer can do his best only with what lies within the range and character of his talent."

Willa Cather, preface, The Best Short Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett (1925)

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"Her sarcasm was so quick, so fine at the point -- it was like being touched by a metal so cold that one doesn't know whether one is burned or chilled."

Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy (1926)

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"The trees and shrubbery seemed well-groomed and social, like pleasant people."

Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy (1926)

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"When kindness has left people, even for a few moments, we become afraid of them, as if their reason had left them."

Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy (1926)

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"Money is a protection, a cloak; it can buy one quiet, and some sort of dignity."

Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy (1926)

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"[Dawn] is always such a forgiving time. When that first cold, bright streak comes over the water, it's as if all our sins were pardoned; as if the sky leaned over the earth and kissed it and gave it absolution."

Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy (1926)

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"... as we grow old we become more and more the stuff our forebears put into us. ... We think we are so individual and so misunderstood when we are young; but the nature our strain of blood carries is inside there, waiting, like our skeleton."

Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy (1926)

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"People are always talking about the joys of youth -- but, oh, how youth can suffer!"

Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy (1926)

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"Religion is different from everything else; because in religion seeking is finding."

Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy (1926)

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"Where there is great love, there are always miracles."

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

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"In the working of silver or drilling of turquoise the Indians had exhaustless patience, upon their blankets and belts and ceremonial robes they lavished their skill and pains. But their conception of decoration did not extend to the landscape. They seemed to have none of the European's desire to 'master' nature, to arrange and re-create. They spent their ingenuity in the other direction; in accommodating themselves to the scene in which they found themselves. This was not so much from indolence, the Bishop thought, as from an inherited caution and respect. It was as if the great country were asleep, and they wished to carry on their lives without awakening it; or as if the spirits of earth and air and water were things not to antagonize and arouse. When they hunted, it was with the same discretion; an Indian hunt was never a slaughter. They ravaged neither the rivers nor the forest, and if they irrigated, they took as little water as would serve their needs. The land and all that it bore they treated with consideration; not attempting to improve it, they never desecrated it."

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

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"Meanwhile, I am enjoying to the full that period of reflection which is the happiest conclusion to a life of action."

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

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"The miracles of the church seem to me to rest not so much on faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there around us always."

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

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"Setting ... is accident. Either a building is part of a place, or it is not. Once that kinship is there, time will only make it stronger."

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

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"The air and the earth interpenetrated in the warm gusts of spring; the soil was full of sunlight, and the sunlight full of red dust. The air one breathed was saturated with earthy smells, and the grass under foot had a reflection of blue sky in it."

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

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"Men travel faster now, but I do not know if they go to better things."

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

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"I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived."

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

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"Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky."

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

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"... most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen."

Willa Cather, in René Rapin, Willa Cather (1930)

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"The emptiness was intense, like the stillness in a great factory when the machinery stops running."

Willa Cather, "Neighbour Rosicky," in Woman's Home Companion (1930)

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"Only solitary men know the full joys of friendship. Others have their family; but to a solitary and an exile his friends are everything."

Willa Cather, Shadows on the Rock (1931)

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"One made a climate; one made the days -- the complexion, the special flavor, the special happiness of every day as it passed; one made life."

Willa Cather, Shadows on the Rock (1931)

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"He acted too often without counting the cost, from some dazzling conception, -- one could not say from impulse, for impulses are from the heart. He liked to reorganize and change things for the sake of change, to make a fine gesture, He destroyed the old before he had clearly thought out the new."

Willa Cather, Shadows on the Rock (1931)

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"What if -- what if Life itself were the sweetheart?"

Willa Cather, Lucy Gayheart (1935)

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"In little towns, lives roll along so close to one another; loves and hates beat about, their wings almost touching."

Willa Cather, Lucy Gayheart (1935)

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"He didn't believe she would ever be guilty of those uncatalogued faint treacheries which vanity makes young people commit."

Willa Cather, Lucy Gayheart (1935)

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"Loyal? As loyal as anyone who plays second fiddle ever is."

Willa Cather, Lucy Gayheart (1935)

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"Personal hatred and family affection are not incompatible; they often flourish and grow strong together."

Willa Cather, Lucy Gayheart (1935)

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"In a few hours one could cover that incalculable distance; from the winter country and homely neighbours, to the city where the air trembled like a tuning-fork with unimaginable possibilities."

Willa Cather, Lucy Gayheart (1935)

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"Some peoples' lives are affected by what happens to their person or their property; but for others fate is what happens to their feelings and their thoughts -- that and nothing more."

Willa Cather, Lucy Gayheart (1935)

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"He didn't think highly of what is called success in the world to-day, but such as it was he wanted his friends to have it, and was vexed with them when they missed it."

Willa Cather, "Double Birthday" (1929), in Edward J. O'Brien, ed., 50 Best American Short Stories 1915-1939 (1939)

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"Ah, she thought, that's what liking people amounts to; it's liking their silliness and absurdities. That's what it really is."

Willa Cather, "Double Birthday" (1929), in Edward J. O'Brien, ed., 50 Best American Short Stories 1915-1939 (1939)

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"Youth, art, love, dreams, true-heartedness -- why must they go out of the summer world into darkness?"

Willa Cather, "Double Birthday" (1929), in Edward J. O'Brien, ed., 50 Best American Short Stories 1915-1939 (1939)

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"Money? Oh yes, he would like to have some, but not what went with it."

Willa Cather, "Double Birthday" (1929), in Edward J. O'Brien, ed., 50 Best American Short Stories 1915-1939 (1939)

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"... in this world people have to pay an extortionate price for any exceptional gift whatever."

Willa Cather, title story, The Old Beauty (1948)

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"She gave herself up to the feeling of being at home. It went all through her, that feeling, like getting into a warm bath when one is tired. She was safe from everything ..."

Willa Cather, "The Best Years" (1945), The Old Beauty and Others (1948)

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"Religion and art spring from the same root and are close kin. Economics and art are strangers."

Willa Cather, "Escapism" (1936), On Writing (1949)

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"Give the people a new word and they think they have a new fact."

Willa Cather, "Escapism" (1936), On Writing (1949)

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"Most publishers, like most writers, are ruined by their successes."

Willa Cather, "My First Novels" (1931), On Writing (1949)

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"Whatever is felt upon the page without being specifically named there -- that, one might say, is created."

Willa Cather, "The Novel Démeublé," On Writing (1949)

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"Art, it seems to me, should simplify. That, indeed, is very nearly the whole of the higher artistic process; finding what conventions of form and what detail one can do without and yet preserve the spirit of the whole -- so that all that one has suppressed and cut away is there to the reader's consciousness as much as if it were in type on the page."

Willa Cather, "On the Art of Fiction" (1920), On Writing (1949)

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"... William Tavener never heeded ominous forecasts in the domestic horizon, and he never looked for a storm until it broke."

Willa Cather, "The Sentimentality of William Tavener," in Virginia Faulkner, ed., Willa Cather's Collected Short Fiction, 1982-1912 (1970)

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"New things are always ugly."

Willa Cather, in Phyllis C. Robinson, Willa (1983)

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"One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world's end somewhere, and holds fast to the days, as to fortune or fame."

Willa Cather, Willa Cather in Europe (1956)

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"Many people seem to think that art is a luxury to be imported and tacked on to life. Art springs out of the very stuff that life is made of. Most of our young authors start to write a story and make a few observations from nature to add local color. The results are invariably false and hollow. Art must spring out of the fullness and richness of life."

Willa Cather, interview (1921), in L. Brent Bohlke, ed., Willa Cather in Person (1986)

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"No nation has ever produced great art that has not made a high art of cookery, because art appeals primarily to the senses."

Willa Cather, speech (1921), in L. Brent Bohlke, ed., Willa Cather in Person (1986)

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"So long as a novelist works selfishly for the pleasure of creating character and situation corresponding to his own illusions, ideals and intuitions, he will always produce something worth while and natural. Directly he takes himself too seriously and begins for the alleged benefit of humanity an elaborate dissection of complexes, he evolves a book that is more ridiculous and tiresome than the most conventional cold cream girl novel of yesterday."

Willa Cather, interview (1923), in L. Brent Bohlke, ed., Willa Cather in Person (1986)

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"A watch is the most essential part of a lecture."

Willa Cather, speech (1926), in L. Brent Bohlke, ed., Willa Cather in Person (1986)

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"The sincerity of feeling that is possible between a writer and a reader is one of the finest things I know."

Willa Cather, interview (1931), in L. Brent Bohlke, ed., Willa Cather in Person (1986)

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"Let your fiction grow out of the land beneath your feet."

Willa Cather

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"[Some] people really expect the passion of love to fill and gratify every need of life, whereas nature only intended that it should meet one of many demands. They insist on making it stand for all the emotional pleasures of life and art; expecting an individual and self-limited passion to yield infinite variety, pleasure, and distraction, and to contribute to their lives what the arts and the pleasurable exercise of the intellect gives to less limited and less intense idealists."

Willa Cather, book review of The Awakening(1899), The Works of Willa Cather (2010)

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Willa Cather, U.S. writer, poet, journalist
(1873 - 1947)

Full name: Willa Sibert Cather.