October 24, 2006

Acoustic guitar, if you think I play hard
Well you could of belonged to Steve Earle



Marcel Duchamp, Portrait of a Chess Player, 1911

* From a 1977 interview of Kurt Vonnegut:

Interviewer: You have been a public relations man and an advertising man -- was this painful? I mean -- did you feel your talent was being wasted, being crippled?

Vonnegut: No, That's romance -- that work of that sort damages a writer's soul. At Iowa, Dick Yates and I used to give a lecture each year on the writer and the free enterprise system. The students hated it. We would talk about all the hack jobs writers could take in case they found themselves starving to death, or in case they wanted to accumulate enough capital to finance the writing of a book. Since publishers aren't putting money into first novels any more, and since the magazines have died, and since television isn't buying from young freelancers any more, and since foundations give grants only to old poops like me, young writers are going to have to support themselves as shameless hacks. Otherwise, we are soon going to find ourselves without a contemporary literature. There is only one genuinely ghastly thing hack jobs do to writers, and that is to waste their precious time.

Interviewer: Should young writers be subsidized?

Vonnegut: Something's got to be done, now that free enterprise has made it impossible for them to support themselves through free enterprise. I was a sensational businessman in the beginning -- for the simple reason that there was so much business to be done. When I was working for General Electric, I wrote a story, "Report on the Barnhouse Effect," the first story I ever wrote. I mailed it off to Collier's. Knox Burger was fiction editor there. Knox told me what was wrong with it and how to fix it. I did what he said, and he bought the story for $750, six weeks' pay at GE. I wrote another, and he paid me $950, and suggested that it was perhaps time for me to quit GE. Which I did. I moved to Provincetwon. Eventually, my price for a short story got up to $2900 a crack. Think of that. And Knox got me a couple of agent who were as shrewd about story telling as he was -- Kenneth Littauer, who had been his predecessor at Collier's, and Max Wilkinson, who had been a story editor for MGM. And let it be put on record here that Knox Burger, who is about my age, discovered and encouraged more good young writers than any other editor of his time. I don't think that's ever been written down anywhere. It's a fact known only to writers, and one that could easily vanish, if it isn't somewhere written down.

* Bush lies, claiming "we've never been 'stay the course.' Talking Points Memo reader asks "Isn't it interesting that now, just before the elections, Bush is choosing to cut and run from his pat phrase 'stay the course?'"

* Stephin Merrit is interviewed and plays a Gothic Archies song on Fox 5 Atlanta.

* Blogger shows this to be the 1600th post on Dust Congress. Thanks all for reading.

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