It was at the theatre and at Carnegie Hall that Paul really lived; the rest was but a sleep and a forgetting. This was Paul’s fairy tale, and it had for him all the allurement of a secret love. The moment he inhaled the gassy, painty, dusty odour behind the scenes, he breathed like a prisoner set free, and felt within him the possibility of doing or saying splendid, brilliant, poetic things. The moment the cracked orchestra beat out the overture from Martha, or jerked at the serenade from Rigoletto, all stupid and ugly things slid from him, and his senses were deliciously, yet delicately fired.
–“Paul’s Case,” Willa Cather, 1905
I love Willa Cather’s artistic characters who operate on some higher level, breathing brighter air, striving for excellence. I wonder if that is how Cather felt when she wrote, and if so, I wonder what triggered that “fairy tale” part of her life. I can understand Paul’s feelings in this story. Thankfully, my home life is not as “stupid and ugly” as Paul’s, but there are moments when I’m lost in a good book, and I do feel that possibility within me to write something brilliant. It’s not really vanity; it’s more of a hope. It’s why I keep reading, no matter what.