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Better times ahead

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Thursday, Mar 6, 2008

I’m ignoring all the stories about autobiographical mendacity to report some good publishing news.


Ready?


Kurt Vonnegut is back from the dead. Kinda.


A year, believe it not, has passed since his death, and soon we’re gonna get just a little more from him thanks to Armageddon in Retrospect, out from Putnam next month.


The book, introduced by the author’s son, contains fiction on and non-fiction pieces from a variety of eras. Inside are letters, time-travel stories, more great speeches, and pieces of advice (i.e. “get a dog”).


While we’re at it, let’s revisit Vonnegut’s How to Write With Style essay. You can find it in a range of places, but I’ll send you here. A taste? Here’s rule number three:


As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. “To be or not to be?” asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story “Eveline” is this one: “She was tired.” At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do. Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred. The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively fourteen-year-old: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”


Now, I’m off to re-examine my childhood, and make sure nothing has been left out. Like that time I was a child soldier, for instance.

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