Saturday, June 4, 2011

Letters of Note

I don't know about you guys but I have a fascination with people in the public sphere, whether that be political, literary, film, etc. Don't get me wrong I sure as hell don't mean I enjoy reading about where the Kardashians went to get their eyebrows waxed, I mean people of some sort of importance to the world. I love to read about all those hidden aspects of them that we often don't have much access to, and one of the best ways is to read one of their letters. Letters of Note is a website dedicated to archiving the letters/notes/telegraphs/memos etc of people of note. There are over 500 letters archived so far, from Adolf Hitler, to Bruce Lee, to Charles Darwin, to J.R.R. Tolkien, to Quentin Tarantino. They're amazing, insightful and often hilarious and an unbelievably easy way to waste a few good hours! If that isn't enough to entice you then here are two copies of letters sent by the late, great Kurt Vonnegut. Visit the links to read more letters from Mr Vonnegut and the other illuminaries featured on the site.

Dear Avatar Prabhu --

I thank you for THE REVISED KAMA SUTRA. I am honored by the dedication, and salute you as a full-fledged colleague, as will Joe Heller, too, I'm sure. The only other book dedicated to me is a biography of the late Frank Zappa. Are you sufficiently acculturated to know who Frank Zappa was?

As for acculturation: Yours is the most fucked-up, bewildering case ever brought to my attention as a reader, starting, for God's sake, with a Roman Catholic upbringing in the famously non-Christian matrix of the Indian sub-continent -- an area, incidentally, and for reasons other than bizarre sexual attitudes, which is much in the news nowadays.

I have met Salmon Rushdie, your peer in blasphemy. While in deep hiding, he gave a corrosively unfavorable review of a book of mine, so I have put out a contract on him. If the Moslem assassins don't get him, my Roman Catholic Italian psychopath will.

Yes -- I am reading you, and finding you very funny.

Cheers --
Kurt Vonnegut

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.

Brother Vonnegut


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