Kurt Vonnegut: Letters

I had Kurt Vonnegut: Letters for Christmas and got through it in short order. I’ve only read two of his stories, Player Piano and Slaughterhouse-Five, but they made a big impression. His letters reveal a blunt human being, who occupies a space that encompasses someone who simply uses their skills to make a living and someone who is devoted to the art and craft of their work. He shows that the two aren’t necessarily incompatible. I want to share some bits that I thought were interesting.

To his daughter, Nanny Vonnegut (p.176)

Kurt wrote this while trying to repair his relationship with his youngest daughter, after he and his first wife (Jane) had parted.

You’re learning now that you do not inhabit a solid, reliable social structure – that the older people around you are worried, moody, goofy human beings who themselves were little kids only a few days ago. So home can fall apart and schools can fall apart, usually for childish reasons – and what have you got? A space wandered named Nan.

And that’s O.K. I’m a space wanderer named Kurt, and Jane’s a space wanderer named Jane, and so on. When things go well for days on end, it is an hilarious accident.

You are dismayed at having lost a year, maybe, because the school fell apart. Well – I feel as though I’ve lost the years since Slaughterhouse-Five was published, but that’s malarky. Those years weren’t lost. They simply weren’t the way I’d  planned them. Neither was the year in which Jim had to stay motionless in bed while he got over TB. Neither was the year in which Mark went crazy, then put himself together again. Those years were adventures. Planned years are not.

I look back on my own life, and I wouldn’t change anything, not even the times when I was raging drunk. I don’t drink much any more, by the way. And a screwy thing is happening, without any encouragement from anywhere –  I  am eating less and less meat.

I wish someone had told me this when I was in my teens. It would have made things a lot easier if someone had let me in on the secret that all these adult shaped people are just as potentially rudderless as you are. It’s something that’s embodied by the trend of ‘fully grown’ people saying ‘I don’t want to Adult today,’ as though Adult is a verb. It’s a neat recognition that adulthood; taking responsibility and direction for oneself is as much a performed role as anything else. Despite that, maturing into that role doesn’t suddenly negate the chaotic nature of life; we’re not smart enough to be able to predict and control life on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes changes happen that we can’t avoid, like getting TB, or discovering that less and less, without any encouragement, you are eating less meat. So it goes. Continue reading

Books Wot I Read: 2016 Edition

A quick round-up of the books that I got through last year. A lot of the time that I had to read, I spent reading books that were necessary for my MA, so they wouldn’t have necessarily been my first choice. I also didn’t get through anywhere near as many books as I’d have liked. Going to try a little harder this year. Continue reading

Mare Ridden

The moonlight that filtered through the tangled branches of the nightmare pines was tainted by their boughs, and where it touched the snowclad ground, black twins of the twisted branches lay. In the still night a single draught slid across the moonlight snow towards the peacefully slumbering farm. It slipped over a snow drift and gently tipped a latch on the stable door, creeping inside. In the gloom of the stable, something in the draught watched the black horse’s nostrils flare as it sensed the presence, whickering in fear. The draught swept across the hay-strewn floor, towards its prey.

 *

               At the horse’s scream, Karl jerked from his sleep, breathless and sweating. The house was silent but the scream still quivered in his ears, worming its way into his brain, thundering through his heart and racing in his breath. It shivered down his spine. Around him his dark bedroom loomed, and the formerly safe room, his day-time sanctuary from the arduous work of the farm, leaned in close as though waiting for its moment. Continue reading

White Is Red

1 4UkyYA9dUl5PO-l72auCzQ

Frankie pulls up in her dad’s car, wearing white. She hops out of the black-green ’63 Mustang and leaves the engine running, glancing nervously at the house looming behind Cameron.

“Get the fuck in.” She growls, running around the hood. Cameron trots around the trunk and stuffs his black sports bag in the back, as Frankie slides gracefully into the passenger side. She’s 5’6” and sixteen, short, black hair, shaved to a quarter inch fuzz down the right hand side. There’s a tiny, round, silver stud high up in her ear that glints in the sunset as she gets in. She’s gorgeous. Cameron puts it in first and tries to pull off innocuously and quickly, but fails. The engine is loud. Frankie slides nervously down the seat, crinkling her white summer dress. She watches her mirror in silence until they hit the highway.

“Why am I driving?” Cameron asks after a while, quietly breaking the engine filled silence.

“No licence.” She says shortly.

The silent-tide rolls back in and they follow the curving asphalt through the pine trees as the sun goes down. There are few cars on the road, but Frankie still tenses visibly when they pass one. Cameron’s a year older than she is and has no more experience of law-breaking, but is able to hide his nervousness better. He grips the wheel white-knuckled and pretends that his guts don’t feel like they’re trying to escape.

“Nice dress,” he says, trying to take his mind off things. They curve right into a canyon lined with firs and unforgiving rock faces. “I’ve never seen you wear something like that before.” She normally wore jeans, t-shirts and half laced Doc-Martins. Sometimes her bottom half was obscured by overalls whose upper-half was tied around her waist. Frankie shrugs.

“New life, new start… new clothes seemed appropriate. My mother never grubbed around in jeans like me.” It gets darker and Cameron flicks on the Mustang’s lights, illuminating the twisting path in front of them. The double yellow line stretches for winding miles, its white twins following closely, gripping the canyon-side.

“Just don’t change too much, right?” Cameron smiles, trying to lighten the mood that has settled on them heavily, like the dark. “I quite like you how you are.”

Frankie scowls.

Continue reading