[Alternative Muses] Coming and Going: Willa Cather/Thornton Wilder Mashup

“Let your fiction grow out of the land beneath your feet.”-Willa Cather (born on 12/7/1873)

Willa Cather, 1912

Willa Cather, 1912

“If you write to impress it will always be bad, but if you write to express it will be good.”-Thornton Wilder (died on 12/7/1975)

Thornton Wilder, Yale graduation photo, 1920

Thornton Wilder’s very serious looking Yale graduation photo, 1920

18 thoughts on “[Alternative Muses] Coming and Going: Willa Cather/Thornton Wilder Mashup

      • As sentimental as Our Town is, it gets me every time. I know many agree with you that it’s not his best work, but even the worst performances of it still speak to me.


      • Although it is far from my favourite (several of his other plays are just too stellar for me to choose this as my number one), I do not dislike Our Town. Unfortunately, there have been far, far too many (usually way too sappy) high school productions of this play, making it the only Wilder piece that most people have ever heard of or watched. And I think that is a shame.


      • I wonder what it was like to have one of his lesser works hit such a chord with so many people. Do you know which of his works was his favorite? I’d be curious to know.

        The entire sentiment of Our Town captured my father’s Irish take on life. When I read the play I wept for him. I cried at one badly acted high school production because the actors looked so young and so naive it broke my heart.

        Very few plays or movies make me cry (I imagine myself quite the stoic). I haven’t read the novel, but the movie version of The Namesake had me sobbing for hours.


      • I wouldn’t call it a lesser play-it did win a Pulitzer, after all. 🙂 It is definitely an excellent play, and worthy of esteem. He just did a lot more than this one play that his modern reputation rests on; that is my only issue. So, I guess that my problem has more to do with 21st century cultural ignorance, and less with the merits of Our Town. He won three Pulitzer Prizes, after all (one for novels, two for drama) and wrote the play that Hello Dolly is based on. Very few people realize this.

        I’ve no idea what his fave was, but even if it was Our Town that would be okay. I just imagine he would like to be remembered for his entire output, not just one play.


      • Imagine winning all those awards! I certainly wouldn’t mind 🙂 But even without awards there’s something really great knowing that future generations will stumble upon our work and wonder about us :). I totally get what you’re saying. I wonder how many people still go watch local school plays even. TV is so much easier. Sad. Even just the act of getting out to a small production is an event. It’s a shame people people miss it. I even like the high school elementary band concerts–though I have to drag my husband to those! haha. He likes play though.


      • I know! Three Pulitzers in fifteen or so years for two different mediums.

        I love small stage productions. My husband and I go to this wonderful place in Cinci called the Know Theatre. It’s great, all of the way down to the shabby bar with specialty drinks named after the current production. We’ve seen some fabulous shows there!


      • We have a local community theater. I help with the productions most summers. Basically I keep track of things like costumes, the programs, etc. They rent a huge loft space where they store their thousands of costumes. It’s a sight to behold!


      • I am a stage-trained actor (sounds pretentious, I know), and I think that community theatres are a treasure. Thanks for helping to sustain the tradition.


  1. Thornton makes a good point. I see that with the kids’ writing group I mentor. Those who want to impress suffer from writer’s block more than the rest. Those who write to get their ideas across are the ones making real discoveries about their stories & characters, if that makes any sense.


    • It makes perfect sense. I absolutely agree with Thornton. I think that writing to express oneself, to get an idea or philosophy across, to find the correct/best words for what is in your head, is what works best. Grandstanding is rarely effective.


  2. Pingback: Poet Appreciate #1: Willa Cather | cricketmuse

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