David Bruce: Authors Anecdotes

• Charles Bukowski worked at lousy jobs for much of his life, but he wanted to be a writer. In 1969, John Martin, publisher of Black Sparrow Press, made him an offer: For each and every month of the rest of Mr. Bukowski’s life, Mr. Martin would pay him $100. Mr. Martin atttached a condition: Mr. Bukowski had to quit his job at the post office. Instead of working at lousy jobs, he would have to write. Mr. Bukowski, age 49, gladly accepted the offer and quit his job and wrote. In 1971, Black Sparrow Presspublished Mr. Bukowski’sfirst novel: Post Office. After 15 years of receiving $100 each and every month, Mr. Bukowski wrote Mr. Martin a letter in which he expressed his appreciation at not having to work at lousy jobs. In part, he wrote, “I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: ‘I’ll never be free!’ One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life. So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die. To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.”

• Maurice Sendak, who died on 8 May 2012, wrote and illustrated many books for children. Of course, he received letters from his readers. He liked the ones that were actually voluntarily written by the kids — adults assigned too many of the letters he received. He gave an example: “Dear Mr. Sendak, Mrs. Markowitz said would you please send a free book and two drawings?” But the ones from children who actually felt the urge to write him were wonderful and wonderfully honest — Mr. Sendak appreciated honesty. After he wrote Outside Over There, a little girl from Canada read it and wrote him, “I like all of your books, why did you write this book, this is the first book I hate. I hate the babies in this book, why are they naked, I hope you die soon. Cordially…” Her mother wrote this note that accompanied the letter: “I wondered if I should even mail this to you — I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”Mr. Sendak’s feelings were not hurt. He said, “I was so elated. It was so natural and spontaneous. The mother said, ‘You should know I am pregnant and she has been fiercely opposed to it.’ Well, she [the little girl] didn’t want competition, and the whole book was about a girl who’s fighting against having to look after her baby sister.” Mr. Sendak added, “If [the letter is] true, then you can’t care about the vicious and the painful. You can only be astonished. Most kids don’t dare tell the truth. Kids are the politest people in the world. A letter [that says, ‘I hope you die soon’] is wonderful. ‘I wish you would die.’ I should have written back, ‘Honey, I will.’”

• Jo Nesbø is the Norwegian author of Scanda-noir crime thrillers starring the character Harry Hole, about whose last name he said, “The Norwegian pronunciation is Hoola, but it’s fine if you call him Hole.” When Mr. Nesbøwas younger, he played in a rock band with a younger brother. Mr. Nesbø said, “When we started the band, we really weren’t that good and we would change our name every week so that audiences wouldn’t realize it was us playing again. So the band never really had a name. Eventually we got a bit better and fans would ask when di derre[Norwegian for ‘those guys’] were coming back. So we called ourselves Di Derre.” By the way, Mr. Nesbø is a soccer [European football] fan. When he was 10 years old, he thought about becoming a fan of the Arsenal football club, but an older brother forced him to become a fan of Tottenham. Mr. Nesbø explained, “I had been thinking about supporting Arsenal because I quite liked the shirts. But then my 15-year-old brother told me firmly that I wasn’t and that I had two days to learn the entire Tottenham squad. He wasn’t someone that you disobeyed.” Harry Hole is a fan of Tottenham Hotspur football club, and in one of Mr.Nesbø’s Harry Hole thrillers, the bad guys are drug dealers who wear Arsenal replica shirts. Mr. Nesbø said, “I’ve got a number of friends who support Arsenal, and they gave me a lot of grief about that. They said, ‘Only a coward uses his power as a writer to do something like that.’ […] I told them to sod off.”

• One of the stories told about Kurt Vonnegut is how he quit his job writing for Sports Illustrated. He was assigned to write a story about a horse that jumped over a fence during a race and tried to run away. Supposedly, Mr. Vonnegut stared for hours at a blank sheet of paper, and then he wrote “The horse jumped over the f**king fence” and quit. Later, as a famous author, he made a cameo in the movie Back to School. He played himself, and the character played by Rodney Dangerfield hired him to write a term paper on the novels of Kurt Vonnegut. After Mr. Dangerfield handed in the paper and the professor read it, the professor recognized that the paper was plagiarized and added, “Whoever did write this doesn’t know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.









John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: