Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Books: "For what it is worth: It now seems morally important to me to do without minor characters in a story."

Over at Letters of Note, a blog dedicated to the perhaps decaying art of the personal letter (I recently saw a blog post written as an open letter containing the confession that the blogger never wrote an actual letter to anybody), they're featuring a letter from author Kurt Vonnegut to then first-time novelist Mark Lindquist. I share it because I think it is neat, but my excuse for putting it on a horror blog is that he discusses the supposed high-brow/low-brow culture divide and gives his opinion of the work of Stephen King. With that thin excuse for horror cred in place, read on:

he 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."

The last lines of the letter are interesting.

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.

The letter is brief, but worth the click over.


Adam Blomquist said...

Very cool. And not a stretch at all for a "horror blog."

Coincidentally, I'm close to the end of King's "Under the Dome" where he seems to tell every minor character's life story...leading to a book of cinder-block proportions.

Vonnegut was the man. I'm pretty sure I'm going to force "Cat's Cradle" on my girlfriend soon. Good jumping on point?

Have I told you lately you're my favorite blogger?

conflated said...

"... and everything I would like to be ..."

CRwM said...


I'm glad to hear you dig the blog.

As for "Cat's Cradle," I actually prefer "CC" to "Slaughter House Five." I don't know if it is a better book - "SH5" has more gravitas and moral heft, I think - but I enjoy the book more.