site index

Text Tour of the Day
yesterday | today tomorrow

October 31, 2005


Although he swore that Timequake was to be his last book, Kurt Vonnegut has published a new collection of essays: A Man without a Country. Good thing, too. About a year ago I almost wrote to ask him why he was being silent when the world needed his sane observations and good advice. I never wrote that letter, but here comes A Man without a Country anyway. I immediately placed an order with a local bookstore. They called a few days later and I had the pleasure of taking it home on a chilly damp Friday evening. I burned through it in one sitting. Next morning, I sat down and typed a three page letter to Mr. Vonnegut thanking him for it and a lifetime of good work.

The thing which initially attracted me to Vonnegut's books is the fact that they are so direct; he doesn't play allusive or obscure literary games. I had a similar feeling when I first read Howl--here at last was a poem which described life in bold clear language. Until then I'd only read  antiquated "schoolbook poetry" with its attendant masturbatory exercises of "find the symbols" and "decode the meaning." I like Bukowski for the same reason--you never have to guess what he is getting at.

Kurt Vonnegut signed and returned the book I mailed him!

Reading Vonnegut led me to give Mark Twain another try. I read and enjoyed Letters from the Earth last summer, but most of his other writings struck me as too quaint. I have a 1957 family edition of his complete short stories which I've been trying to get through since childhood but I never make it very far. So this time I started from the back of the book, reading the last story first--The Mysterious Stranger, published in 1916, six years after Twain's death. Twain got pretty bitter towards the end and I think that put an edge on his later writing. This long short story has a wicked bite behind its charming smile and its conclusion fits my own metaphysics pretty well. So... I recommend it!

Seattle winter is pretty inspiring when it comes to reading and writing. The nights are long and (often) rainy, the days short and (usually) gloomy. So today I sat down and typed out a short story. I haven't done that in years. It felt good. It's called "The Collector" and is somewhat pulpy fiction, a not very mysterious 3-page mystery about a "priceless" object passing through many different hands as it wends its way to a gory climax. It's a lot like the stories I used to write to entertain friends in high school. For some reason, I mailed it off anonymously to a local publication. I should have waited; it needed changes. Well, that original is probably in some editor's recycling bin by now, but I kept a carbon and you can have a photocopy of the improved version for one measly US dollar ($1) and a SASE sent to The Collector, 3955-B Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103 USA.  

I like mailing words. The first sentence is free: The artifact was priceless but humans have their price....