I’ve seen a couple of references today to a wonderful letter Kurt Vonnegut wrote to a school principal who ordered copies of Slaughterhouse-Five burned because they contain foul language. It’s a great response to the outrage of book-burning, in a very calm, conversational way, hinging on the conviction that people wouldn’t do something so awful to each other if they saw each other as real human beings. It’s a theme close to my heart, too. My favourite part is a bit of a digression, though, where he gives a very concise description of what he wrote about:
If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don’t damage children much. They didn’t damage us when we were young. It was evil deeds and lying that hurt us.