This peice by Kurt Vonnegut is required reading for my students in intro to college composition. Good advice all round.
Because I’m so likely to forget this later when it’s important I wanted to jot down a passage from Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior:
“The swordswoman and I are not so dissimilar. May my people understand the resemblance soon so that I can return to them. What we have in common are the words at our backs. The idioms for revenge are “report a crime” and “report to five families.” The reporting is the vengeance – not the beheading, not the gutting, but the words. And I have so many words – “chink” words and “gook” words too – that they do not fit on my skin.” (53)
As a matter of explanation the “fit on my skin” bit that it ends on references an earlier passage where the woman warrior has the names of those she must have revenge upon carved into her skin.
I’ve only just started The Woman Warrior, but I have high hopes since Tripmaster Monkey remains one of my favorite books. This passage just kicked me around a bit this morning and I thought I’d share. The power of words and writing Kingston refers to here is why I’m in this business.