A lot of people believe that beauty is some kind of conspiracy

August 1981, in a bid to gain some high-profile support for a fledgling theatre company with which he was involved, John Carey wrote a letter to author Kurt Vonnegut and asked for his backing. Below is Vonnegut’s generous, insightful reply.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of John Carey.

Image: John Carey


228 E 48 NYC 10071 Aug 18 1981

Dear John Carey —

I thank you for the shirt and the friendly letter. I suspect that much of the official resistance you have met, and the bitterness, too, grows from the belief that the arts are unmanly. They are also foreign-inspired. So any man out that way who is asked to support the arts feels that he is being accused of homosexuality and treason. Why wouldn’t he be sore?

You can use my name on your board, I guess, although I generally try to keep off of letterheads unless I am able to be of substantial assistance. When I moved to this address, I went into the office of an interesting looking little institution next door — to find out what they did. So they explained that they set up burn clinics all over the world, and had begun doing this in Viet Nam, and so on. At the end of their explanation, though, they said that I really should have known something about their work already, since I was on their letterhead. A few years back, I had even signed a deeply moving appeal for funds, with photographs and all. Good for me.

I congratulate you people on being in the raging mainstream of the arts. It is commercial artists like myself who operate in the backwaters. I inhabit still, tepid waters clogged with dollar bills. I never see people. I’ve forgotten all about them.

Guard yourself at all times. A lot of people believe that beauty is some kind of conspiracy — along with friendly laughter and peace.

Cheers —


Kurt Vonnegut