Private: Vonnegut, Doomsday, more

Kurt Vonnegut is working on a new novel, If God Were Alive Today, “about a fictitious man, Gil Berman, 36 years my junior, who cracks jokes or whatever in front of college audiences from time to time, something [he himself has] done.” He provides a transcript of some remarks he made to college students at the University of Wisconsin in Madison on September 22, 2003. Here’s an excerpt:

I realize that some of you may have come in hopes of hearing tips on how to become a professional writer. I say to you, “If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be a homosexual, the least you can do is go into the arts. But do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites, standing for absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

(Thanks to Emma for the link.)

The Doomsday Book was first compiled in 1086 A.D. and “paints a picture as vivid as any miniature, offering a meticulous inventory of England two decades after the Norman Conquest, from its pastures and meadows to the livestock that grazed there and the men and women who owned them.” The Evening Standard approves of the new translation.

William Leith interviews Iain Banks, who says:

I wanted to be a writer from the age of 11 … I have proof of this. At school we were asked to draw, in crayon, what we wanted to be when we grew up. I didn’t know how to draw a writer, so I drew an actor. And I put ‘and writer’ in quite clear letters in the top left-hand corner.

Anthony Daniels skewers Isabel Allende’s My Invented Country, a memoir, from the first sentence, accusing the author of exaggerating, engaging in stereotypes, and making “banal and superficial” judgments. He ends the review with a sort of defense of Pinochet.

The Age features a new profile of J.G. Ballard and reminisces about the hackles the author’s work has raised:

In 1970, The Atrocity Exhibition was pulped by his American publishers because it included stories such as Why I Want to F**k Ronald Reagan and a vision of Hollywood moving into the White House. A few years later, his publisher’s reader warned that Ballard was “beyond psychiatric help”, having perused the manuscript of what was to become one of Ballard’s best-known novels and the epitome of auto-erotic fiction, the disturbing Crash. A “psychopathic hymn” in Ballard’s own words, Crash explored a sinister union of sex and violence in auto-atrocities at a time when few were ready for it.

(Via Dust Congress.)