Our story for March is “Two Friends,” the final story in Cather’s 1932 collection, Obscure Destinies.
When Willa Cather sent “Two Friends” to her publisher, Alfred Knopf, she wrote that she thought it the best short story she’d ever written.
Here’s the beginning of that letter, courtesy of the Willa Cather Archive with their hyperlinks intact:
Dear Alfred,Read the full letter here: https://cather.unl.edu/writings/letters/let2636
With this letter I am sending Miss Aaron two short stories for the volume of which “Neighbor Rosicky” will make a third. I hope that you and Blanche will read them both before Miss Aaron starts out to sell them. “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 Courbet; 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’ I’m proud of.
I’ve read this short story before, most recently around the time of the 2016 presidential election. I’m looking forward to reading it again this month in relation to “Neighbour Rosicky” and “Old Mrs. Harris,” the two other stories that make up the “Three New Stories of the West” in Obscure Destinies.
Read or re-read “Two Friends” sometime this month. I’ll have my response post up on the morning of Wednesday, March 25th. Come back to share your thoughts on that post or, if you can’t wait, feel free to leave a comment here.
New here? Learn more about the Willa Cather Short Story Project here. In a nutshell, I remind everyone what story we’re reading on the second Wednesday of the month and then share a response post on the forth Wednesday of the month to have a discussion about the story.
Can’t wait to read this one, especially after reviewing Cather’s letter commenting on how she felt it was her best. With the current climate, I’m ready for some more Cather!