Don’t say it

Back in the mid-1980s, a young man in his early-20s named James Harmon began writing to a huge number of notable people — authors, academics, actors, thinkers; all of whom he admired — and asked, “If you could offer the young people of today one piece of advice, what would it be?” Over the coming years Harmon continued to write, and slowly but surely the replies appeared. In 2002, a selection were published in the fantastic book, Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation from People Who Know a Thing or Two.

Below is just one of those responses — a handwritten reply from Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the wonderful Glenn Horowitz.


Dec 15, 1986

James Harmon

Dear James:

Here’s some advice I have been giving to just-marrieds over the last decade or so:

Don’t say it. It’s too hard to take it back. I’ve seen too many loves sundered by too much needless honesty. These psychological ding-dongs that tell people to speak their minds to their mates, to vent their spleens? What do they accomplish? All they produce is a lot of lonely self-righteous minds & ventilated spleens.

Ken Kesey

P.S. Faye & I have been married 35 years. KK