It “may be a very bad book.”
I read this in The Paris Review: Interviews Part I—-
Kurt Vonnegut:…Now, judging from the reviews my latest book, Slapstick, has received, people would like to bounce me out of the literary establishment–send me back where I came from.
Interviewer: There were some bad reviews?
Vonnegut: Only in The New York Times, TIME, Newsweek, The New York Review of Books, The Village Voice, and Rolling Stone. They loved me in Medicine Hat.
Interviewer: To what do you attribute this rancor?
Vonnegut: Slapstick may be a very bad book. I am perfectly willing to believe that. Everybody else writes lousy books, so why shouldn’t I? What was unusual about the reviews was that they wanted people to admit that I had never been any good. The reviewer for the Sunday Times actually asked critics who had praised me in the past to now admit in public how wrong they’d been. My publisher, Sam Lawrence, tried to comfort me by saying that authors were invariably attacked when they became fabulously well-to-do.
Interviewer: You needed comforting?
Vonnegut: I never felt worse in my life. I felt as though I were sleeping standing up on a boxcar in Germany again.
Interviewer: That bad?
Vonnegut: No. But bad enough. All of a sudden, critics wanted me squashed like a bug. And it wasn’t just that I had money all of a sudden, either. The hidden complaint was that I was barbarous, that I wrote without having made a systematic study if great literature, that I was no gentleman, since I had done hack writing so cheerfully for vulgar magazines—-that I had not paid my academic dues.
Interviewer: You had not suffered?
Vonnegut: I had suffered, all right—-but as a badly educated person in vulgar company and in a vulgar trade. It was dishonorable enough that I perverted art for money. I then topped that felony off by becoming, as I say, fabulously well-to-do. Well, that’s just too damn bad for me and for everybody. I’m completely in print, so we’re all stuck with me and stuck with my books.
I’ve never read a Vonnegut novel. His books—-and a whole slew of books by men of his era—-didn’t exactly call to me. But I like how he is willing to say his book may be bad. Everybody else writes bad books, why should I?
And I like, we’re all stuck with me and we’re stuck with my books.
Ah but if the world were just stuck with me…
How would you respond to critics?
If I put my stories (#18!) out in the world, how will I respond to criticism? Quietly. Keep writing.