Monday, October 01, 2007

Out of Context: A New Series

Young Castle called me "Scoop." "Good morning, Scoop. What's new in the word game?"
"I might ask the same of you," I replied.
"I'm thinking of calling a general strike of all writers until mankind finally comes to its senses. Would you support it?"
"Do writers have a right to strike? That would be like the policemen or firemen walking out."
"Or the college prfessors."
"Or the college professors," I agreed. I shook my head. "No, I don't think my conscience would let me support a strike like that. When a man becomes a writer, I think he takes on a sacred obligation to produce beauty and enlightenment and comfort at top speed."
"I just can't help thinking what a real shaking up it would give people if, all of a sudden, there were no new books, new plays, new histories, new poems. . . "
"And how proud would you be when people started dying like flys?" I demanded.
"They'd die like mad dogs, I think--snarling and snapping at each other and biting their own tails."
I turned to Castle the elder. "Sir, how does a man die when he's deprived of the consolations of literature?"
"In one of two ways," he said, "petrescence of the heart or atrophy of the nervous system."
"Neither one very pleasant, I expect," I suggested.
"No," said Castle the elder. "For the love of God, both of you, please keep writing."

from A Medical Opinion on the Effects of a Writer's Strike, Cat's Cradle. Kurt Vonnegut, 1963.

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