): writer of wild, satiric, outrageous fiction. Lee Stringer (
): one-time homeless crack addict who discovered that pencils are not just drug implements. Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer: a mutual admiration
society. Like Shaking Hands with God
: a transcription of two moderated conversations between Vonnegut and Stringer--one before a bookstore audience, one over lunch.
Shaking Hands has a slender profile and a pretty cover. But the only thing slight about these conversations is that they leave the reader wanting more. The book is billed as a conversation about writing, but it is as much about life as about writing. Neither Vonnegut nor Stringer is interested in holing up in a garret to write. Vonnegut makes any excuse to go out and rub elbows with the folks who buy lottery tickets. Stringer wonders, Can you write anything on Park Avenue, really? Vonnegut laments his happy childhood as no way for a writer to begin. Stringer panics--while he wrote his first book as if on a high, the next one may emerge from an awareness of Oprah and marketability.
Vonnegut and Stringer are passionate about one another's work, passionate about life, and passionate about writing, but not so much so that they ever, for a moment, lose their sense of irony or humor. In the age of the sound bite, literature can be deemed, on some level, useless. Stringer praises writing, in that context, as a struggle to preserve our right to be not so practical. And Vonnegut? We are here on Earth to fart around, he proclaims in Timequake (excerpted here). Don't let anybody tell you any different! --Jane Steinberg