Posts tagged Kurt Vonnegut.
If somebody says, ”I love you,” to me, I feel as though I had a pistol pointed at my head. What can anybody reply under such conditions but that which the pistol-holder requires? I love you, too.
A saint is a person who behaves decently in a shockingly indecent society.
A sum of money is a leading character in this tale about people, just as a sum of honey might properly be a leading character in a tale about bees.
I had a friend who was a heavy drinker. If somebody asked him if he’d been drunk the night before, he would always answer offhandedly, “Oh, I imagine.” I’ve always liked that answer. It acknowledges life as a dream. Cornell was a boozy dream, partly because of booze itself, and partly because I was enrolled exclusively in courses I had no talent for. My father and brother agreed that I should study chemistry, since my brother had done so well with chemicals at M.I.T. He’s eight years older than I am. Funnier, too. His most famous discovery is that silver iodide will sometimes make it rain or snow.
I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts. This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever.
Kurt Vonnegut “Physicist, Purge Thyself” in the Chicago Tribune Magazine (22 June 1969)
Dear Mark Evans Lindquist —
I thank you for your very friendly and nourishing letter, undated and with the return address crossed out. Morgan Entrekin, when a mere teenager, not only read my books but was the editor of three of them, so he would be particularly adept at noticing kinship between your works and mine. The writer who most inspired me when I was a stripling is scarcely read at all any more. He was John Dos Passos. Writers of my generation used to say that the great American novel had in fact been written, which was U.S.A. Mailer’s The Naked and The Dead reads and even looks like additional chapters of U.S.A. The other book which wowed me when I was really young has held up better than U.S.A., probably because it is not so burdened with historical particulars, is a minimalist work. It is Voltaire’s Candide. I have not read your Sad Movies, and Dos Passos surely never read anything by me. About twenty new books a week arrive at this house, most of them no doubt marvelous. I simply can’t keep up. The fact that you have completed a work of fiction of which you are proud, which you made as good as you could, makes you as close a blood relative as my brother Bernard. The best thing about our family, our profession, is that its members are not envious or competitive. I was with the great Nadine Gordimer recently, and a reporter encouraged us to speak badly of a writer who made one hell of a lot more money than we did, Stephen King. Gordimer and I defended him. We thought he was awfully damn good at what he did. Long ago, I knocked the schlock novelist Jacqueline Suzanne off the top of the Best Seller List where she had been for a year or more. She was a sweet, tough, utterly sincere lady, and, as I say, a blood relative. She sent me a note saying, “As long as it had to be somebody, I’m glad it was you.” For what it is worth: It now seems morally important to me to do without minor characters in a story. Any character who appears, however briefly, deserves to have his or her life story fully respected and told.