Monday, September 04, 2006

Oe And Vonnegut

Reading this amazing speech by Kurt Vonnegut (wish there was a full transcript or an audio recording) reminded me of a Kenzaburo Oe quote. In the concluding chapter of his Japan The Ambiguous And Myself, Oe had said of his role as a writer :

As one with a peripheral, marginal, off-center existence in the world, I would like to continue to seek - with what I hope is a modest, decent, humanistic contribution of my own - ways to be of some use in the cure and reconciliation of mankind.

Vonnegut states the obvious in that speech but in a way that prompts a standing ovation. That is perhaps his "modest, decent, humanistic contribution". Oe talks about the future of Japanese literature and how rock stars like Banana Yoshimoto and Ryu Murakami are not the purveyors of serious Japanese literature. Of himself he says :

I am one of the writers who wish to create serious works of literature which dissociate themselves from those novels which are mere reflections of the vast consumer cultures of Tokyo and the subcultures of the world at large. What kind of identity as a Japanese should I seek?

Whatever identity Oe sought for himself, the beauty of his writing is its astounding simplicity - stark,clear and precise, like this excerpt from The Silent Cry

I had an awful lot of dreams about S too, you know. In all kinds of ways his death had a profound influence on us as we grew up. That's why we had so many different dreams about it. Now that we were discussing it, though, I realize that our dreams must have must have had quite different atmospheres. Feeling compunction at pressing Takashi too far, I was offering a means of compromise. "It seems his death had completely different effects on the two of us"

It would likewise take a Vonnegut to make the art great writing seem so obvious :

A key to great writing, he adds, is to “never use semi-colons. What are they good for? What are you supposed to do with them? You’re reading along, and then suddenly, there it is. What does it mean? All semi-colons do is suggest you’ve been to college.”


SFGary said...

Like his "key to great writing" he once said, "if you have to marry, marry rich."

Heartcrossings said...

SFG - Makes perfect sense to me