In his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story:
Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
Start as close to the end as possible.
Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
Vonnegut qualifies the list by adding that Flannery O’Connor broke all these rules except the first, and that great writers tend to do that.
My pal David and his wife, Katie, just moved from Alaska into a tony neighborhood around the corner from us. “Tony” is San Francisco for “Holy Shit, I wish I’d been rich enough to buy a house there 30 years before I was born.” Welcome, Clan McCreath. See you at “Chou Chou.” We’re the ones just having appies and nursing that first drink.
Before Nabokov’s death in 1977, he instructed his wife to burn the unfinished first draft—handwritten on 138 index cards—of what would be his final novel. She did not, and the cards have been locked in a Swiss bank vault for the past 30 years. Now, Nabokov’s son, Dmitri, who contributes what could charitably be called a skippable preface, is releasing them to the world, though after reading the book, readers will wonder if the Lolita author is laughing or turning over in his grave.
Instead, there it was, a hefty physical object, truly unusual in more than one respect. Knopf and presumably Dmitri have scanned the 138 index cards and presented them one to a page, in perforated detachable form. There’s a transcription by Dmitri below each card. You could detach the cards and shuffle them if you wanted to, although this form implies more randomness than the careful numbering, renumbering, and lettering V.N. has penciled in on most of the cards suggests. And if you were to remove all the cards, the hardbound book would look like a ghost town with all the windows punched in. But you have to admire the daring: The book’s form will allow readers to hold the cards in their hands the way V.N. must have, at one time or another, as he neared completion of this draft.
Holy. Shit. Holy. Holy. Shit.
I think I disagree with the decision to release this in any fashion, but if you’re set on doing it? Wow, what an amazingly sexy way to put it out there. And non-trivial in terms of production.
Without the (albeit insanely amazing) leads from Paul1 and George playing from the top, you get to hear George’s (unused) gorgeous 12-string Rick arpeggios. Jesus, what a boner that gives me. Big Rick boner. LOVE that sound.
The chatter and clowning.
I’m not a deep Beatles scholar, but I think this (Apr 1966) wasn’t too long before things started to well and truly unravel internally.
I wonder how many times after this John and Paul would have this much fun in the same room at the same time. Makes me kinda weepy actually. Sucks that the two guys responsible for giving the world so much joy ended up enjoying so little of it for themselves.
John calls this one “a throwaway,” but it’s categorically one of my favorite Beatles songs and has to be regarded as one of the quintessential inspirations for every power pop song since.
George Martin used to claim that his composition was inspired by the Bernard Herrmann score for François Truffaut's film Fahrenheit 451, however this is not possible because the film had not yet been released. The writers of the book Recording The Beatles theorized that Martin was probably referring to the score from Psycho, which was also scored by Herrmann. Martin has since altered his telling of the story and agrees that he was probably thinking of the score to Psycho. The strings were recorded without reverberation, and compressed, giving a stark, urgent sound.
For 35 years I’ve listened to the wonderful song that became (at least in some small and probably unconscious way) part of the inspiration for my daughter's first name.
But, holy Christ. I’d never heard the Herrmann/Psycho influence. Until now. And now it’s all I can hear. Which, in its way, is kind of awesome.
Man, nobody did it like Bernard Herrmann. His stuff still sounds as taut, fresh, sophisticated, and unknowable as it did the day it came out. Hard to imagine a handful of Hitchcock classics without him (and Saul Bass).
Hitchcock originally wanted the shower scene to play with no music. In post production, while the director was out of town, Herrmann composed the famous theme and showed it to Hitchcock with the music upon his return. Hitchcock had to admit his original notion was an “improper suggestion.”
"ER" MP3 Source: Revolver Deluxe Vol. II (Purple Chick). If it exists. And if I have it. Which I’m not saying it does. And I’m certainly not implying I do. Although it would be an awesome not-to-miss addition to any Beatles nerd’s collection. If it exists. Which I’m not saying it does.
“I ditched the format when I saw what it was becoming. It’s saved my time, my sanity, my love of writing, and my desire to waffle on like a Belgian baker without wondering what extra crap I can add to my sidebar.”—Rise of the Tablog [via]
The whole first chapter of Slaughterhouse-Five. Lovely.
I had the Bell Telephone Company find him for me. They are wonderful that way. I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone. I get drunk, and I drive my wife away with a breath like mustard gas and roses. And then, speaking gravely and elegantly into the telephone, I ask the telephone operators to connect me with this friend or that one, from whom I have not heard in years.
Sometimes I try to call up old girl friends on the telephone late at night, after my wife has gone to bed. “Operator, I wonder if you could give me the number of a Mrs. So-and-So. I think she lives at such-and-such.”
"I’m sorry, sir. There is no such listing."
"Thanks, Operator. Thanks just the same."
And I let the dog out, or I let him in, and we talk some. I let him know I like him, and he lets me know he likes me. He doesn’t mind the smell of mustard gas and roses.
"You’re all right, Sandy," I’ll say to the dog. "You know that, Sandy? You’re O.K."
Maybe read it again, like I just did, and, I dunno, maybe remember thinking, like I just did: “This. This makes me want to write something.”
Way before I ever had any idea what I wanted to write, this made me want to write something.
Drunk on success, Author Dan Brown rewrites Absalom Absalom!
Aging woman Rosa Coldfield was sitting in a room as hot as a Hotpoint oven that had been left on for a very long time even though nothing was cooking yet that anyone could sense or smell. She could almost taste the Southern aspects of the air that was full of air things like hot molecules and the paint chip things that fall off the walls in old houses as they sit like two eyes cut with dull southern scissors from an old magazine about sharks or other fish that have eyes or travel. “Fahrenheit was a Pollock,” Rosa uttered audibly, to no one in particular, although Quentin was also sitting in the hot room with two eyes. “Poland is not hot,” Rosa colluded, exhaling the air that had been in her lungs for a few seconds before she talked chillingly about the temperature man. “This is a hot room,” she finished, forecasting a way of saying to Quentin that the heat of the enormous room was like an angry animal that moved like a more slow animal and with eyes like scissors or not. Quentin silently acknowledged her fiery observations with keen intelligence and iced tea in a small man-like hand which was still attached cunningly to one arm. So was the other one, white with wise countenance of being in this precarious room with the woman I mentioned earlier. It was still really hot, certainly.
It was one of the best Saturday mornings ever. It was like Palm Sunday but with eggs and actual Pall Malls — with him carrying on about politics and madness and misunderstandings and annihilation. (This is true. He bought us all breakfast and he was really nice and generous and not just a little crazy.)
I can’t believe I’ve made it this long without ever hearing this audio, described as Vonnegut’s “first public reading of the classic Breakfast of Champions, three years before it was published, on May 4, 1970 at the 92nd Street Y.”
Sounds just terrific in the air:
This is a world premiere of a book called, Breakfast of Champions. Not even my wife has seen it — I’ve simply passed the rumor around that it exists. So, here we go. It…uh…it’s a novel.
My name is Dwayne Hoover and I am an experiment by the creator of the universe. I am the only creature in the entire universe who has free will. I am the only creature who has to figure out what to do next and why. Everybody else is a robot.
I am pooped. I wish I were a robot too. It is perfectly exhausting having to reason all the time in a universe I never made.
When you hear Kurt Vonnegut reading this aloud you appreciate the necessity of science fiction; it’s a way we crazy people have of talking about the world without talking about the world. I didn’t always get that, but now I really think I do.