Thursday, April 19, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut on the death of eloquence

"""I'm writing about the death of eloquence. Eloquence was so ordinary back then, in the time of Shakespeare. In contrast to Shakespearean speech, I was watching one of those television talk shows the other night where people air their disagreements with other people. There is a scene in Othello where Iago wants to get Cassio drunk on alcohol and.... ......""

"So Iago says, "Come, lieutenant, I have a stoup of wine; and here without are a brace of Cyprus gallants that would fain have a measure to the health of black Othello." Cassio turns down the drink and says, "Not tonight, good Iago; I have very poor and unhappy brains for drinking: I could well wish courtesy would invent some other custom of entertainment." And then we get back to what I saw the other guy say on tv — well, I read his lips actually, because we don't get anything real on our televisions. And this talk show guy said, "Fuck you — you know what I'm saying?" [Laughs] I just don't think people get off on language anymore. Language used to be an elevated art. It used to be for people what music can be. But people don't learn to do that anymore, so eloquence is merely a matter of waste now. Who needs a good vocabulary and proper English? Eloquence — it's dead and who needs it? We use shorthand nowadays. Fuck you — you know what I'm saying? [Laughs] """"

Indeed, Mr. V . As with the scrawlings of his literary ancestor Twain, Vonnegut's screeds have been approved by Contingencies: KVSpeak may not have been sufficiently posh-- or marxist--- for east coast lit. snobs, yet still, shall we say, Jeffersonian (and KV, Cornell guy, was fairly well read in sciences, reportedly). Better some yankee cynicism--- even bad, stoner yankee cynicism-- than English lit. melodrama, or space operas for that mattter (or Catholics, Inc.) . We don't care for all of his writing---Slaughterhouse 5 may have been overrated (the Dresden sections are pretty powerful)--- but Breakfast of Champions not a bad book (and possibly a parody of Updike?). Dwayne Hoover is alive and well, and defending Dick Cheney in some bar. JG Ballard approved of KV, apparently. A few years ago, Vonnegut also penned an interesting column on Nelson Algren, one of America's legends of the literary underground (as KV noted, Sinatra made far more from "Man with the Golden Arm" than Algren did). So it goes.

(and note, Vonnegut fans, how many so-called "liberal" bloggers didn't even bother to mention Kurt's death: that's par for the course for the new sort of cyber-apparatchik).
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