Sunday, May 25, 2014

Letters of Brian G. Fay

Just finished reading Kurt Vonnegut: Letters edited by Dan Wakefield. A couple thoughts. Wakefield, a Vonnegut friend, glossed over some rough edges and created a loving tribute. I'm not against that, but felt that the book was incomplete. There were hints throughout that things were darker than portrayed.

The ends of these books are usually depressing. The writer declines, old age brings depression. So it was with Vonnegut.

He seemed two men in one. Just prior to Letters I read a collection of his commencement speeches, If This Isn't Nice, What Is? which presented an more optimistic Vonnegut. Letters, especially toward the end, was from the Vonnegut became A Man Without a Country. Funny but also angry and so sad.

I relate to the duality. I'm caught between images of myself. The confident sounding man who is anxiously uncertain that he knows nothing at all. The happy optimist believing people are good but cynically sure the world is going to hell because everyone (myself included) is overcome by greed. The stalled man stuck analyze things and the fool acting without thought and making tremendous mistakes. I'm both and neither at the same time. Vonnegut is about the same. Hell, you might be too.

I most enjoy Letters of E.B. White, a perfect portrait of the man told in his own voice which is magical. His story is almost devoid of melodrama aside from his having fallen in love with a married woman whom he subsequently married until death did them part. I'm not much for melodrama. I prefer quiet characters to loud ones.

Vonnegut isn't so loud, but he sure was unhappy and seemed to poison himself. I suppose he had reason. His letters show that much.

Me, I've taken to handwriting letters that I scan into email. A beautiful anachronism. Most of my letters seem to be from a happy man who, though he's working to escape a bad job, still smiles. Maybe someday someone will publish my Gmail. I want the end of that book to be optimistic and show that I found the right side of my duality.

Until then I might as well keep going and write on.