I have been for years and years repeatedly told to read Kurt Vonnegut. I bought a copy of Cat’s Cradle in an airport a year ago. One of those orange covered Penguin paperback classics for $9.99. I neglected pick it up the whole 14hr. plane ride. Then it just sat on my shelf until a month ago. There are those books that people tell you to read, people with good tastes in literature that know you and what you’re interested in, that are just never given the time of day. Anyways, I read it and am now convinced I must read more Vonnegut. So I have, the latest being A Man Without A Country. A short book and Vonnegut’s most recent where he creates wee essays commenting on and quipping about many pertinent topics of day. One of them being art. Here is an expert I find most amusing and true:
Who was the wisest person I met in my life? It was man, but of course it needn’t have been. It was the graphic artist Saul Steinberg. Like everyone else I know he is dead now. I could ask him anything and six seconds would pass and he’d give me a perfect answer gruffly, almost a growl. He was born in Romania in a house where according to him the geese looked in the windows.
I said, “Saul, How should I feel about Picasso?” Six seconds past and then he said, “God put him on earth to show us what it is like to be really rich.”
I said, “Saul, I’m a novelist and many of my friends are novelists and good ones, but when we talk I keep feeling we’re in two very different businesses. What makes me feel that way?” Six seconds past and then he said, “It is very simple there are to kinds of artists, one not being in the least superior to the other, but one responds to the history of his or her art so far and the other responds to life itself.
I said, “Saul, are you gifted?” Six seconds past and then he growled, “ No but what you respond to in any work is the artists struggle against his or her limitations.”