Saturday, July 25, 2009

Kurt Vonnegut: Light of Hack Hope

For all those of us who write a bit for money—not love nor glory—a hopeful thought or two from Kurt Vonnegut:

Interviewer: You have been a public relations man and an advertising man—

Vonnegut: Oh, I imagine.

Interviewer: Was this painful? I mean—did you feel your talent was being wasted, being crippled?

Vonnegut: No. That's romance—that work of that sort damages a writer's soul. At Iowa, Dick Yates and I used to give a lecture each year on the writer and the free-enterprise system. The students hated it. We would talk about all the hack jobs writers could take in case they found themselves starving to death, or in case they wanted to accumulate enough capital to finance the writing of a book. Since publishers aren't putting money into first novels anymore, and since the magazines have died, and since television isn't buying from young freelancers anymore, and since the foundations only give grants to old poops like me, young writers are going to have to support themselves as shameless hacks. Otherwise, we are soon going to find ourselves without a contemporary literature. There is only one genuinely ghastly thing hack jobs do to writers, and that is to waste their precious time.

From The Paris Review Interviews, Vol 1.

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