Skip to main content

Writers and Confrontations

Image result for vonnegut

"Students like to say that they stage no confrontations because people avoid confrontations in modern life. “Modern life is so lonely,” they say. This is laziness. It’s the writer’s job to stage confrontations, so the characters will say surprising and revealing things, and educate and entertain us all. If a writer can’t or won’t do that, he should withdraw from the trade."
- Kurt Vonnegut

One of my Facebook friends posted this quote recently. I like it, and that will have to be my complete excuse for including it here. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Maybe the quotation is out of context, but it makes little sense to me. I assume that "Students ... stage no confrontations" means that student writers of fiction and plays omit confrontations from their plots. I don't know how that is possible, but let that go. Then we learn that the reason that they stage no confrontations is that people avoid confrontations in modern life. I don't know what evidence they have for the belief that people avoid confrontations in modern life, but I'll let that go.

    The students seem to be saying that their fiction and plays should reflect modern life, but they don't say why it should. Then students say, "Modern life is so lonely," but what does that have to do with what precedes it? Are they saying that modern life is lonely BECAUSE people avoid confrontations? I don't see the connection between loneliness and avoiding confrontations. People can enjoy themselves together without confrontations, and I see no reason to conclude that people who avoid confrontations are more lonely than people who engage in confrontations. But, if we do conclude that, then why don't students conclude that their fiction and plays would be more interesting if they included confrontations? Is it that reflecting modern life is more important than writing interesting fiction and plays?


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Great Chain of Being

One of the points that Lovejoy makes in the book of that title I mentioned last week is the importance, in the Neo-Platonist conceptions and in the later development of the "chain of being" metaphor, of what he calls the principle of plenitude. This is the underlying notion that everything that can exist must exist, that creation would not be possible at all were it to leave gaps.

The value of this idea for a certain type of theodicy is clear enough.

This caused theological difficulties when these ideas were absorbed into Christianity.  I'll quote a bit of what Lovejoy has to say about those difficulties:

"For that conception, when taken over into Christianity, had to be accommodated to very different principles, drawn from other sources, which forbade its literal interpretation; to carry it through to what seemed to be its necessary implications was to be sure of falling into one theological pitfall or another."

The big pitfalls were: determinism on the on…

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…