Sunday, April 17, 2016

Country Musician, City Musician

I have been thinking a lot about this passage from Willa Cather's Lucy Gayheart. Lucy is having a conversation with her piano teacher about a young man from her small rural town her teacher hoped she would marry. They are in Chicago at the beginning of the 20th century:
"You are mistaken, Mr. Auerbach. That is only a friendship."

"Maybe so. But I wouldn't be sorry to see it come to something else. In the musical profession there are many disappointments. A nice house and garden in a little town, with money enough not to worry, a family--that's the best life."

"You think so because you live in a city. Family life in a little town is pretty deadly. It's being planted in the earth, like one of your carrots there. I'd rather be pulled up and thrown away."

Auerbach shook his head. "No, you wouldn't. I've heard young people talk like that before. You will learn that to live is the first thing."

Lucy asked him if there were not more than one way of living.

"Not for a girl like you, Lucy; you are too kind. Even for women with great talent and great ambition--I don't know. Some have good success, but I don't envy them."

The next morning, when Lucy opened the windows in the studio and looked across at the Lake, she told herself that she wasn't going out to the Auerbachs' any more. It dampened her spirits. He was a heavy, thorough, German music-teacher, and there he stopped.

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