I came across these postcards and had to share them with you. Postcards, indeed letter writing, is almost a lost art, an activity no longer practised. And it’s a shame.
Actually at the moment I’m working on a project that involves people writing to those in their community that are a little isolated, depressed, need more comfort that a utility bill can give them. It’s a simple idea that can lead to profound results especially in an age of email and texts. I’m excited by it, going back to old school writing, thinking, slowing down, is wonderful. Anyway, to the point. I couldn’t resist these postcards, all written and sent by famous writers from Jack Kerouac to Franz Kafka and Hemingway to David Foster Wallace.
Back in 1947 Kurt Vonnegut, a man not known for convention, wrote up a chore list of champions contract with his new wife regarding domestic duties in the home. It was binding up until the time that their first child was born (she was pregnant at the time). In true Vonnegut style underneath its apparent madness there lay a fundamental truth; sometimes its easier to cut to the chase and get the little things sorted, especially if you’re going to share ayour life with someone. I for one am absolutely aware of the damage that small chore minefields can cause. So here it is, Vonnegut’s contract to his wife Jane written on 26th January 1947.
I, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., that is, do hereby swear that I will be faithful to the commitments hereunder listed:
I. With the agreement that my wife will not nag, heckle, or otherwise disturb me on the subject, I promise to scrub the bathroom and kitchen floors once a week, on a day and hour of my own choosing. Not only that, but I will do a good and thorough job, and by that she means that I will get under the bathtub, behind the toilet, under the sink, under the icebox, into the corners; and I will pick up and put in some other location whatever movable objects happen to be on said floors at the time so as to get under them too, and not just around them. Furthermore, while I am undertaking these tasks I will refrain from indulging in such remarks as “Shit,” “Goddamn sonofabitch,” and similar vulgarities, as such language is nerve-wracking to have around the house when nothing more drastic is taking place than the facing of Necessity. If I do not live up to this agreement, my wife is to feel free to nag, heckle, and otherwise disturb me until I am driven to scrub the floors anyway—no matter how busy I am.
II. I furthermore swear that I will observe the following minor amenities:
a. I will hang up my clothes and put my shoes in the closet when I am not wearing them;
b. I will not track dirt into the house needlessly, by such means as not wiping my feet on the mat outside and wearing my bedroom slippers to take out the garbage;
c. I will throw such things as used-up match folders, empty cigarette packages, the piece of cardboard that comes in shirt collars, etc., into a wastebasket instead of leaving them around on chairs or the floor;
d. After shaving I will put my shaving equipment back in the medicine closet;
e. In case I should be the direct cause of a ring around the bathtub after taking a bath, I will, with the aid of Swift’s Cleanser and a brush, not my washcloth, remove said ring;
f. With the agreement that my wife collects the laundry, places it in a laundry bag, and leaves the laundry bag in plain sight in the hall, I will take said laundry to the Laundry not more than three days after said laundry has made its appearance in the hall; I will furthermore bring the laundry back from the Laundry within two weeks after I have taken it;
Ray Bradbury – one of the most eminent science fiction writers of the last 50 years – who sadly died earlier this year would have been 98 yesterday. Thankfully his books live on as does this wonderful documentary called ‘Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer’ made by David L. Wolper way back in 1963. The film is filled with insights on writing and the life of a storyteller and all that that entails. Here’s a short excerpt from it:
The first year I made nothing, the second year I made nothing, the third year I made 10 dollars, the fourth year I made 40 dollars. I remember these. I got these indelibly stamped in there. The fifth year I made 80. The sixth year I made 200. The seventh year I made 800. Eighth year, 1,200. Ninth year, 2,000. Tenth year, 4,000. Eleventh year, 8,000 …
Just get a part-time job! Anything that’s half way decent! An usher in a theater … unless you’re a mad man, you can’t make do in the art fields! You’ve gotta be inspired and mad and excited and love it more than anything else in the world!
In this excerpt from a 1958 BBC interview E.M. Forster, the writer of such classics as ‘A Passage To India’ and ‘Howards End’ explains why he stopped writing fiction at 45 after only having published five novels. He continued working for a further 46 years but only wrote essays, short biographies and literary journalism. Apparently he got left behind. Which is sad. As he says in the interview:
But I think one of the reasons why I stopped writing novels, is that the social aspect of the world changed so very much. I’d been accustomed to write about the old vanished world with its homes and its family life and its comparative peace. All of that went. And though I can think about it I cannot put it into fiction form.
After the publication of ‘The Town and the City’ in 1950 Jack Kerouac was not happy with its book cover. So, in 1952 when he was looking for a publisher for his classic ‘On The Road’ he designed his own, his own DIY effort. He then sent it to a potential publisher called A.A. Wyn with a little note typed in top right hand corner that read:
Dear Mr. Wyn:
I submit this as my idea of an appealing commercial cover expressive of the book. The cover for ‘The Town and the City’ was as dull as the title and the photo backflap. Wilbur Pippin’s photo of me is the perfect On the Road one … it will look like the face of the figure below.
The Penny Dreadful is a new literary arts magazine from Cork City, Ireland. It was founded by a small team of University graduates who felt they could significantly add to the vibrant cultural scene in Cork. In true DIY style the mag has been seen in coffee shoops all over Cork City as well as further afield in places such as Barcelona and L.A.
Now they’re looking to move into a ‘proper’ printed version and need your help. So if you care at all about literature, DIY, the arts or people creating, doing, trying in general then head over to their fund:it page and give them a few quid.
Here’s what they have to say about their venture:
Whether you’re a fanatical patron of the arts, like a sort of Irish Medici who says “yar wan”, or you just want to pre-order your copy of The Penny Dreadful while helping out the magazine too, and in these troubled times you can at least say that you have that sorted, then link on in. The least you can do is take a look..actually the least you can do is nothing but…ya know… and if you don’t want to donate then share the link, maybe you know someone who does. Either way, crowd funding like this is your opportunity to become personally involved in the arts that you consume. Come October you can hold a copy of The Penny Dreadful in your hands and say “I helped to make this possible” and how often do you really get to do that? Check out the rewards we’re offering and prepare to receive our eternal gratitude.
This letter from William Burroughs to Truman Capote is damning. Really damning. It was written in 1970 four years after Capotes’s novel, ‘In Cold Blood’, was serialised in The New Yorker. The book was a genre-defining non-fiction novel and was published to much acclaim. However Burroughs didn’t think so. Infact Burroughs had no time for Capote and been writing derogatory things about him since the 50s. Capote for his part felt the same. He had no time for the beats famously putting down Keroacs ‘On The Road’ saying ‘[It] isn’t writing at all — it’s typing’
Anyway. Here’s the letter. Burroughs finishes it beautifully.
‘John Irving At Home’ is a short film by Director Shaul Schwarz who was invited out to the authors house to film him, talk to him and take a peek around the writers sprawling house. In the film Irving talks about a little about his writing process and his love of wrestling while taking us into his very own wrestling gym as well as the office where he writes in the old fashioned way – with pen and paper – in front of windows looking out onto the forested hills of southern Vermont.
Irivng says about his writing:
I can’t imagine being alive and not writing, not creating, not being the architect of a story, I do suffer, I suppose, from the delusion that I will be able to write something until I die. That’s my intention, my hope.
And while we’re on the subject of John Irving here’s an extract from a previous interview in which the writer was asked about his thoughts on the future of the book.
Here’s what he had to say:
If I were twenty-seven and trying to publish my first novel today, I might be tempted to shoot myself. But I’m 67 and I have an audience so I’m not especially worried about my future in the book business. But I think it’s much harder to be a young writer, a writer starting out today than it was when I started out, when my first novel, Setting Free The Bears, was published back in the late sixties. Here was a novel that wasn’t even set in this country, it was about a couple of Austrian students and it had a historical section which was easily half the length of the novel about the Nazi and then Soviet occupation of Vienna, not a very American subject.
I remember years later asking the guy who published that first novel if he would publish that novel if it came across his desk today, this was back in the 90s, and my old friend and editor and publisher, what I saw was, he hesitated too long. You know? He waited. He thought, “Oh, God, how do I answer this one?” And then he said, “Well, of course I would publish it today.” And I said, “No, you wouldn’t. I saw the hesitation.” And he laughed and said, “No, of course, I wouldn’t.” Very telling. And I think it’s a lot tougher to be a first novelist, to be an unknown novelist today than it was for me and so I worry about what’s going to happen with those good, younger writers. But I don’t think the book is in any particular peril, I think the book is going to survive
Rudyard Kipling gave this speech on ‘Truth in Writing’ on 12th July, 1933 at Claridge’s Hotel in London during a Royal Society of Literature luncheon held in honour of visiting members of the Canadian Authors’ Association. The text of the speech was published in a posthumous edition of ‘A Book of Words’. In the speech Kipling had this to say to those writers in the room:
STRICTLY BETWEEN OURSELVES, I think this is an occasion when we are justified in feeling a little proud of our calling. We know that, after all the men who do things have done them, and the men who say things about their doings have said them, it is only words—nothing but words—that live to show the present how, and in what moods, men lived and worked in the past.
And we do not know what words they will be. That is one of the reasons why there can be neither first nor last in the kingdom—for it is not a republic—of letters.
We who use words enjoy a peculiar advantage over our fellows. We cannot tell a lie. However much we may wish to do so, we only of educated men and women cannot tell a lie—in our working hours. The more subtly we attempt it, the more certainly do we betray some aspect of truth concerning the life of our age.
It is with us as with timber. Every knot and shake in a board reveals some disease or injury that overtook the log when it was growing. A gentleman named Jean Pigeon, who once built a frame house for me, put this in a nutshell. He said: `Everything which a tree she has experienced in the forest she takes with her into the house.’ That is the law for us all, each in his or her own land.
The Guardian newspaper have been running a ‘Great American Novelist Tournament’ and they are down to the last 32. One of the elimination rules is that they must have written at least four possible ‘greats’ books which is rather alot of ‘great’ books to have written and as a consequence has left out many ‘great’ writers such as; David Foster Wallace, Marilynne Robinson, Harper Lee, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Richard Yates and John Cheever. I’m not sure when the final adjudication will be made but i’ll keep you informed.
Now to the list:
1. William Faulkner
Light In August
As I lay Dying
The Sound and The Fury
2. Saul Bellow
The Adventure of Augie March
Henderson The Rain King
3. Philip Roth
The Human Stain
4. John Updike
Rabbit Is Rich
Rabbit At Rest
5. John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath
East of Eden
Of Mice and Men
6. Sinclair Lewis
7. Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye
Song of Solomon
8. Ernest Hemingway
The Sun Also Rises
To Have and To Have Not
A Farewell to Arms
The Garden of Eden
9. Edith Wharton
The Custom of the Country
The Age of Innocence
The Glimpses of the Moon
10. Cormac McCarthy
All the Pretty Horses
11. Willa Cather
The Professor’s House
Death Comes for the Archbishop
A Lost Lady
One of Ours
12. Don DeLillo
13. EL Doctorow
The Book of Daniel
14. Thomas Pynchon
The Crying of Lot 49
Mason and Dixon
15. Vladimir Nabokov
16. Annie Proulx
The Shipping News
That Old Ace In The Hole
17. James Baldwin
Go Tell It On The Mountain
Just Above My Head
18. William S Burroughs
Cities of the Red Knight
19. Raymond Chandler
The Big Sleep
The Long Goodbye
Farewell My Lovely
The Lady in the Lake
20. John Dos Passos
The Manhattan Transfer
The Big Money
21. John Fante
Wait Until Spring, Bandini
Ask the Dust
Dreams from Bunker Hill
The Brotherhood of the Grape
22. F Scott Fitzgerald
This Side of Paradise
The Beautiful and the Damned
The Great Gatsby
Tender is the Night
23. Richard Ford
The Sports Writer
The Lay of The Land
24. Wallace Stegner
Angle of Repose
Crossing To Safety
The Big Rock Candy Mountain
The Spectator Bird
25. William Gaddis
A Frolic Of His Own
26. Joseph Heller
Good as Gold
Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man
27. Ursula K Le Guin
The Left Hand of Darkness
A Wizard Of Earthsea
The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia
The Lathe of Heaven
28. Carson Mccullers
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Reflections in a Golden Eye
Member of the Wedding
Clock Without Hands
29. Joyce Carol Oates
We Were The Mulvaneys
The Grave Digger’s Daughter
30. William Styron
Confessions of Nat Turner
Lie Down in Darkness
The Long March
31. Paul Auster
The New York Trilogy
In the Country of Last Things
The Music of Chance
The Book of Illusions
32. Kurt Vonnegut
Sirens of Titan
Breakfast of Champions
‘Buy the Ticket. Take the Ride’ is a documentary film on Hunter S, Thompson. And, as it was his anniversary yesterday I thought it would be a fitting tribute to post it up in recognition of a man who inspired a whole generation of journalists, created the genre of gonzo journalism and wrote some classic books including Hell’s Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail and The Great Shark.
The film contains rare archive clips and a selection of interviews with John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Ed Bradley and a bizarre opening sequence with the inimitable Gary Busey.
Thompson’s mythical status was to dog him all his life and eventually took its toll – his gun totting alter ego Raoul Duke became all too much, a point he made during a BBC documentary in 1978:
I’m never sure which one people want me to be [Thompson or Duke], and sometimes they conflict… I am living a normal life, but beside me is this myth, growing larger and getting more and more warped. When I get invited to Universities to speak, I’m not sure who they’re inviting, Duke or Thompson… I suppose that my plans are to figure out some new identity, kill off one life and start another.
Stephen R. Covey‘s book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ was a bestseller way back in In 1989 and was to be a book that defined a new genre bridging self-improvement, business management and personal productivity. Covey died last Monday and so, in his memory, I’ve posted up the key points from his thought provoking book:
Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).
Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.*
People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them.
Until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise.’
To learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.
It is one thing to make a mistake, and quite another thing not to admit it. People will forgive mistakes, because mistakes are usually of the mind, mistakes of judgment. But people will not easily forgive the mistakes of the heart, the ill intention, the bad motives, the prideful justifying cover-up of the first mistake.
Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education.
Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.
The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person.
How you treat the one reveals how you regard the many, because everyone is ultimately a one.
There’s no better way to inform and expand you mind on a regular basis than to get into the habit of reading good literature.
This mix has wonderful readings and recordings by William Burroughs as well as tracks from well known musicians such as John Zorn, Arne Nordheim and Tod Dockstader who put Burrough’s words to music in the later days of the Beat icons life.
So what makes a classic book and why should they be read? Well here’s a list of 14 definitions that the Italian novelist Italo Calvino wrote in his book ‘Why Read the Classics?
The classics are those books about which you usually hear people saying: ‘I’m rereading…’, never ‘I’m reading….’
The Classics are those books which constitute a treasured experience for those who have read and loved them; but they remain just as rich an experience for those who reserve the chance to read them for when they are in the best condition to enjoy them.
The classics are books which exercise a particular influence, both when they imprint themselves on our imagination as unforgettable, and when they hide in the layers of memory disguised as the individual’s or the collective unconscious.
A classic is a book which with each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading.
A classic is a book which even when we read it for the first time gives the sense of rereading something we have read before.
A classic is a book which has never exhausted all it has to say to its readers.
The classics are those books which come to us bearing the aura of previous interpretations, and trailing behind them the traces they have left in the culture or cultures (or just in the languages and customs) through which they have passed.
A classic is a work which constantly generates a pulviscular cloud of critical discourse around it, but which always shakes the particles off.
Classics are books which, the more we think we know them through hearsay, the more original, unexpected, and innovative we find them when we actually read them.
A classic is the term given to any book which comes to represent the whole universe, a book on a par with ancient talismans.
‘Your’ classic is a book to which you cannot remain indifferent, and which helps you define yourself in relation or even in opposition to it.
A classic is a work that comes before other classics; but those who have read other classics first immediately recognize its place in the genealogy of classic works.
A classic is a work which relegates the noise of the present to a background hum, which at the same time the classics cannot exist without.
A classic is a work which persists as a background noise even when a present that is totally incompatible with it holds sway.
Jack Kerouac is one of my heroes. I know. Cliche. But there you have it. I love his writing, his prose and, over the years, have devoured most of his books. So on that note I thought I’d give you his 30 tips on writing which he called ‘Belief and Technique for Modern Prose’.” They’re not what you think they might be infact some of it barely makes sense:
Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
Submissive to everything, open, listening
Try never get drunk outside yr own house
Be in love with yr life
Something that you feel will find its own form
Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
Blow as deep as you want to blow
Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
The unspeakable visions of the individual
No time for poetry but exactly what is
Visionary tics shivering in the chest
In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
Like Proust be an old teahead of time
Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
Accept loss forever
Believe in the holy contour of life
Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better
Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
You’re a Genius all the time
Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
our next DIY arts festival, the Trash Culture Revue, will take place sometime towards the end of the year. So if you want to create, produce, get involved, play, experiment, try stuff out, have fun, design, administrate, organise, volunteer or just come along then let me know
we provide free creative and production skills for your arts projects and events through our skills exchange so you can experiment, fail, make and play no matter who you are, where you are, what you do or when you do it