Tag Archives: Kurt Vonnegut

Just On The Off-Chance…

It’s May 1st 2020. The first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, and the Celtic festival of Beltane. Sadly there won’t be much dancing around the maypole this year.

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Meanwhile what is to be done during this indoor time?

I have turned to the unread books on my shelves, attempting to turn them into books that have actually been read. Stop me if I’ve quoted this before but it is á propos:

“The sight of a lot of books fills me with the desire to read them, which sometimes turns into the belief that I already have.” Kenneth Clarke

One such volume is a collection of interviews with writers from Dorothy Parker to Earnest Hemingway, all first published in the Paris Review, under the cunning title The Paris Review Interviews. It includes an encounter with Kurt Vonnegut. The transcript was collated and edited by Vonnegut himself from four separate interviews conducted over a decade. It is actually Vonnegut interviewing Vonnegut.

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No one has approached me for an interview at this point and I’m not expecting anyone to do so. But in these changing times maybe it would be a good idea to prepare something … just on the off-chance?

So I have decided to follow Vonnegut’s example. He is a writer I admire very  much. His story, Report on the Barnhouse Effect (published in his collection, Welcome to the Monkey House) is a thrilling anti-war piece. And Who Am I This Time?, gives the inside scoop on the psychology of actors.

Here is a brief excerpt of the auto-interrogative to which I refer any hacks who may be desperate for content:

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INTERVIEWER

Colin McPhillamy welcome and thank you for taking to us today.

McPHILLAMY

That’s my great pleasure.

INTERVIEWER

What are you doing with yourself at the moment? Take us through a day.

McPHILLAMY

Ah! The easy questions first eh? … Well it’s hard to say.

INTERVIEWER

Please try. There may well be as many as one or two people (give or take) out there waiting for an answer that makes sense.

McPHILLAMY

Sense!?! At a time like this? Good luck with that.

INTERVIEWER

Talking of time, those of us under lockdown have more of it on our hands than usual at the moment.

McPHILLAMY

Yes, but it’s always NOW. You’ve read your Ram Dass*, right?

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INTERVIEWER

Indeed. What would we do without the eternal verities? But, let me ask, have you, for example, considered starting a podcast?

McPHILLAMY

Oh yes, definitely. My constant thought.

INTERVIEWER

I see. Commendable.

McPHILLAMY

Along with learning Tibetan, re-reading Quantum Physics for Dummies (I only got to page four last time), and starting a community composting initiative. Haven’t actually… you know…

INTERVIEWER

But it’s on the list?

MCPHILLAMY

Well … the truth is … that might be pitching it a bit strong.

INTERVIEWER (changing tack)

Do you watch the news?

McPHILLAMY

I ration my intake … the trouble is…  if I watch more than three minutes at any one time I start to develop psycho-somatic symptoms.

INTERVIEWER

But it’s important to keep up with what our leaders are saying and doing, don’t you agree?

McPHILLAMY

I plead the fifth …

INTERVIEWER

That’s the sort of answer a right merchant banker** might make… isn’t it?

(N pages deleted here: editor)

INTERVIEWER

It’s been a lot of fun talking to you.

McPHILLAMY

Speak for yourself.

Ram Dass*: the late spiritual teacher, known in some circles as a cross between Gurdjieff and Woody Allen. Born Richard Alpert, sometime colleague and psychedelic experimenter with Timothy Leary. Wrote the 1970s best-seller Be Here Now.

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Merchant banker**: obscure reference to cockney rhyming slang.