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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Vonnegut's "Medical Opinion on the Effects of a Writers' Strike"

    "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 police or the firemen walking out."
    "Or the college professors."
    "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 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 flies?" I demanded.
    "They'd die more 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."
-From "Cat's Cradle" Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

This might also contribute to Huenemann's discussion about the value of the humanities.


Charlie H said...

What a great link to the recent Hollywood pissing contest. I'm just reading Cradle now -- or re-reading it, maybe, since there's something like an echo in my head as I go along.

Mike said...

Sarah actually came across it when she was reading Cat's Cradle recently. I haven't read it for a couple years. I'm reading some of his short fiction now, in bursts.

Virtualprimate said...

I think a world without story telling would indeed be a horrible place.

If language didn't expand the imagination, if it wasn't used to reach new heights of fancy contemplating ideals that went beyond our fleshy selves, but instead was used only for what was necessary, like a surgeon using a scalpel, then truly we'd be a miserable lot.

Or perhaps without the capacity to tell stories we'd resemble Pavlov's dog... for without imagination could we consider ourselves free?

Nonetheless... Vonnegut... I'm sure he's gone to a better place (he'd want me to say so) :)