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.

3 comments:

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...

Adam,

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.