Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Lost: Insane Typist Anecdote

More or less exactly a year ago this month I sold all of my books. It was one of the most difficult and unnatural things I’ve ever done, as the first scene of my one-day-surely-to-fuck award-winning-if-I-ever-finish-it play The Collector clearly testifies.

There were 700 of them and I’d been dragging them around with me, and loving them, adoring them, for years.

Although I said at the time that I felt a certain lightness on letting them go – and no doubt at the time it was true – it’s also true that I’ve missed them, a lot, in the last year. Not all of them, obviously, but some of them, and frequently.

I’m missing one of them now, and because I am a) skint b) short of time, and c) loath to buy any book that I owned for so many years and was then forced by circumstance to get rid of, I really don’t want to have to track down a new copy. And my local library doesn’t have it. So I’m asking you, the internet, for your help.

So, are there any Kurt Vonnegut fans out there? I should bloody well hope so. The man was a god. Anyhow, what I’m looking for is a copy of an anecdote that appears in Vonnegut’s autobiographical hotchpotch Palm Sunday.

I had this copy by the way.

Hardback. I got it secondhand. In Brixton I think.

Oh, bloody hell. I really miss my books. It's weird. In some ways I miss them more than I miss the people I sometimes miss. My books never hurt me. Actually, that's not true, but when they did, and when they made me cry, I loved them all the more. Go figure.

Anyway, the anecdote relates to an evening in which, toward the end of his life, Jack Kerouac comes round to Kurt Vonnegut’s house and, if I recall correctly, talks about Hitler (in an inappropriately positive way) and offers to fight Vonnegut’s son.

I’ve had a root around online, and have managed to find proof that I’m not imagining the whole thing, including this quote from Vonnegut:

‘He [Kerouac] was crazy. There were clearly thunderstorms in the head of this once charming and just and intelligent man.’

But I really need to read the whole episode again. I want to remember. So – do you have a copy of Palm Sunday and would you be prepared to scan or photocopy the Kerouac bit and stick it in an email for me? It’s probably only a page or two at most. I would be ever so ever so grateful. I’ll even buy you a drink if you can come along on June 4th. Hmm? What do you say?

Come on, internet! Do your thing.



Share on Facebook! Digg this


Anonymous said...

Kurt Vonnegut was an inspiration when I first read him at Uni. I always remember the quote about the friend who would phone up drunk (Slaughterhouse 5) and his breath smelt of 'mustard gas and roses'.
Can't help with the book but will have a look round. Maybe, dare I say it, the LIBRARY?

La Bête said...

Hmm. Thanks, SM, but might I suggest a closer reading of the text? (My local libraries don't have it!) (And I am in a bit of a hurry.)

Anonymous said...

Sorry I can't help with Vonnegut – I'm sure one of your Yank followers will come through for you.

I left London and moved to LA about 5 years ago - and couldn't get on a plane back fast enough. I was gone a year. When I left London, I sold everything I owned, and gave the rest to charity shops. Many of the things I sold were books, but also trinkets I had picked up in my travels, clothes and my high school trophies (among other childhood possessions). I even got rid of the pottery I made - on my own wheel, fired in my own kiln, painted by my own hands.

In a moment of madness and despair I got rid of a lock of hair from my first ever haircut, old letters from boyfriends and cards from my Nonna, who is now dead. I even got rid of toys from my childhood. I just couldn't afford to ship everything back, especially as I had moved my life over here from America bit by bit over the course of 1o years (at the time) and had saved and accumulated quite a bit.

Sometimes I'll feel a twinge in my heart when I remember something I discarded. I understand how you feel about the books…

kiki said...

i think i have this. I shall check this weekend (i'm moving house)

Shackleford Hurtmore said...

Hi, this is the night shift calling from New Zealand; Still hadn't unpacked my books yet, so just had an excuse to rummage through; before emigrating I sold/gave away any books I had already read (this still left me with 300ish to ship); but I made an exception for Kurt and kept all of his; I found the pages you're after and emailing them through now...

alskj;lasdja;lsdj said...

Please do NOT unmoderate this comment thanks :D


It's in Word format, which sucks, but it's late and I cba converting it or just cutting out the bit you need. Sorry about that.

Love the blog xx

Anonymous said...

I understand how you feel! I often think about one particular book I left behind when I moved to Oregon from Exeter. It was a very old (published around 1919) book by Wilfred Owen, and it had some of my very favourite poems in it. I much later realised that it was also probably worth a lot of money!

Maria in Oregon

PS I'll see if I can find a copy of that Vonnegut book for you!

La Bête said...

Anon, why are you anonymous? You sound really interesting. Write me an email at once. I need to know more about your pottery.

Thanks, Kiki - don't worry though. I have it now.

Shack, thank you. That was excellent of you.

alskj;lasdja;lsdj - how do you pronounce that? Brilliant. Cheers. You are some kind of wonderful. Thank you.

Thanks, Maria. Don't worry about Vonnegut. I'm sorted. Sorry to hear about Wilfred though.

brokenbiro said...

I've just been on my hands and knees grovelling at the back of the bottom shelf (two rows thick now) and sure enough I have a copy! Should have read the comments first - because clearly so do you!

Haven't read Vonnegut for years and I don't even remember this one - I may not have even read it, so now I shall.

Which was the one he started with: 'No names have been changed to protect the innocent, as it is assumed that God will do this as a matter of heavenly routine?'

alex said...

If you can't find it in your library then you can use this to search all the libraries in London and they will often send it to your local library on a temporary loan: