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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

Vonnegut to Willeford

From a letter written by Kurt Vonnegut to Charles Willeford, dated 13 August 1985:

Your publisher asked for a blurb, but I don’t do those anymore having given thousands in the past, and thus having laid myself open to requests for thousands more. However, please count me among your great admirers. You are an absolute first-rate ethnographer in describing survival schemes within chaos which only politicians would be cynical enough to call a society. You have written an important book, and must know it — and must know, too, that you are in a ghetto. What are you? A writer of thrillers, right? Meanwhile, there are all these serious writers, describing America as it really is. Shall I name some of them? Would you like me to send you some of their wonderful books?

[The postscript:] Here’s a trade secret maybe nobody ever told you: The more highly educated and powerful your characters, the more popular your books will be.

3 Responses to “Vonnegut to Willeford”

  1. What this letter indicates to me is that it’s canned and Vonnegut never read Willeford.

    jb says: Thanks for the comment, Charles. I don’t agree, having read most of the output of both of them. Also, I can’t imagine Vonnegut passing over someone of Willeford’s talent.
    There are also many other letters in the Willeford Archive, several from writers like James Lee Burke, Elmore Leonard and Tony Hillerman.

  2. Dick says:

    A writer much missed.

  3. For the biography of Vonnegut I’m writing, due out next year from Henry Holt & Co., I’ve read hundreds of letters written by Kurt and I can tell when he’s blowing smoke (no pun).

    “You are an absolute first-rate ethnographer in describing survival schemes within chaos which only politicians would be cynical enough to call a society.” Typical Vonnegut-speak, suitable for in various forms for graduations and interviews.

    “What are you? A writer of thrillers, right?” Does that indicate he knows Willeford’s work?

    “Meanwhile, there are all these serious writers, describing America as it really is. Shall I name some of them? Would you like me to send you some of their wonderful books?” Willeford needs to be tutored by a writer of fantasy? Isn’t this a tad patronizing?

    I stand by what I said.

    Best,

    Charles