In 1971 Kurt Vonnegut wrote a 4 page preface to Anne Sexton’s book of Grimm Brothers themed poems “Transformations.” It’s darn near the best 4 pages of Vonnegut I’ve read.
I know nothing about Anne. Perhaps this isn’t the best book to make a first impression. But this is the Sexton book that crossed my path first
Enough about Anne Sexton.
I respect books that come to me. I’m not much for forcing myself on a book. Sometimes I try. Usually these passes at incompatible books results in an awkward span of years and dust settling before I can throw it out or feel comfortable slipping my fingers between its pages again.
Sometimes I like books to court me. Sometimes I like making the first move on a book. Sometimes set-ups work. That’s how I first met Pynchon and Doris Lessing.
(end of love-life metaphor. deepest apologies.)
“Transformations” found me while I stood in front of the one dollar shelf at Arise bookstore.
If you want to avoid being watched closely for terrorist activity, don’t go to the Arise bookstore. Do go to the Arise bookstore if you don’t live a paranoid life.
So Kurt-baby wrote this perfectly irreverent and irrelevant preface, complete with a hand-drawn graph. Every inch of the preface is pure ___________ (fill in the blank).
While we're on the subject of filling in the blanks, I tell people I’ll teach again when I reach my 60s. Assuming my longevity genes kick in, I've extended the "someday-i'll-teach-again" deadline to my 70s. Vonnegut knows how to boil things down, as his preface does to one of my reasons for not teaching:
How do I explain these poems? Not at all. I quit teaching in colleges because it seemed criminal to explain works of art. The crisis in my teaching career came, in fact, when I faced an audience which expected me to explain Dubliners by James Joyce.
I was game. I’d read the book. But when I opened my big mouth, no sounds came out.
Why do we literary/artist people feel so inclined to review and explain works of art?
I’m not in the position to answer that. I’m the person reviewing reviews.
There was a time I collected Norman Rockwell books while secretly harboring an obsession with Francis Bacon’s “Pope Innocent X” series.
Take Danielle Steele: fuck her. But who am I to withhold Steele from the bus driver lady waiting for kids to fill her up?
Take half the white male dead chauvinistic authors out there: fuck ‘em. But if that’s all a person is ready for, am I in any position to deny dead white male authors a fair trial by jury of their peers?
Speaking of dead white male authors, Vonnegut one-ups Sexton more than once in his smarty-pants preface. He throws us a trivia bone gleaned from an encyclopedia.
FYI: Originally “Cinderella” was written in French. In the translation from French to English, “the word vair was mistaken for verre so that Cinderella’s fur slippers become glass.”
Or so he says. We’re going to have to take his word for it.
All my life, I, and 75 percent of the female population, has been brainwashed by Disney and the Grimm Brothers that all a girl needs to attract forever-after male attention is the right pair of glass slippers.
Thanks to Vonnegut washing the scales from my eyes, I’m calling BULLSHIT!
I love calling Bullshit.
No, I don’t own a pair of Uggs. But from here on out, I will feel ever more justified to bitch and complain about the fucked up things women do to their feet for the sake of an ever-after.
All this time we could have been wearing fur-lined slippers. What a shame.
The other night I wore silvery heels to a party, danced in them well past midnight and nearly passed out when I took them off.
What did I hope to accomplish by wearing those pseudo-glass slippers? If you don’t call bullshit on me, I’ll call it on myself.
I know Kurt-baby would.