1. Kurt Vonnegut got a nice sendoff this week, and Maud Newton’s memorial page is probably the one I’ll remember best.
As far as anti-tributes go, I can’t say I’m impressed by Peter Stothard’s The Bad About Vonnegut, which ran in the London Times Online (via Frank). Stothard collects a bunch of one-word insults from various Vonnegut book reviews that ran in the London Times over the decades. What’s the big deal? The guy had a four-decade career, some critics didn’t like him, and some others did. Stothard then dwells on the fact that Slaughterhouse-Five referenced a 1963 history book called The Destruction of Dresden by David Irving, who later turned out to be an infamous Nazi sympathizer. This is another soppy attack, since David Irving did not reveal his pro-fascist agenda until several years after Slaughterhouse-Five was published. Kurt Vonnegut has nothing to apologize for, and Peter Stothard’s article is unworthy of its subject.
2. I’m also not impressed by Mik Awake’s New York Inquirer article about how lame fiction readings are (via Saloon). The author tells us that “reading is a solitary act” (not that old chestnut again), and that:
All literary readings, of course, aren’t worthless or financial failures. Quite the contrary, the good ones are exactly the ones that are more like parties than like readings.
I couldn’t disagree more. The good readings are the ones that are like poetry slams — casual, spontaneous, music-filled and happily impolite. I agree that there’s no point in sitting in a folding chair while a meek first-novelist stutters into a mic, but rather than giving up on readings and hunting down chic parties instead, Mik Awake ought to try dropping by the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City any night of the week around midnight. It’s a whole different world.
3. More about King Lear: the Sundance cable channel is running an appealing series called Slings and Arrows about life inside a hip Shakespeare repertory company in Canada. The fictional company is currently putting on a production of King Lear starring a cranky old actor who’s dying of cancer and driving everybody else in the cast crazy (as any King Lear should).