Saul Steinberg and Kurt Vonnegut

In A Man Without A Country, Vonnegut called Steinberg “the wisest person I ever met in my entire life”:

I could ask him anything, and six seconds would pass, and then he would give me a perfect answer, gruffly, almost a growl. He was born in Romania, in a house where, according to him, “the geese looked in the windows.”

I said, “Saul, how should I feel about Picasso?”

Six seconds passed, and then he said, “God put him on Earth to show us what it’s like to be really rich.” I said, “Saul, I am a novelist, and many of my friends are novelists and good ones, but when we talk I keep feeling we are in a very different businesses. What makes me feel that way?”

Six seconds passed, and then he said, “It’s very simple. There are two sorts of artists, one not being in the least superior to the other. But one responds to the history of his or her art so far, and the other responds to life itself.”

I said, “Saul, are you gifted?

Six seconds passed, and then he growled, “No. But what you respond to in any work of art is the artist’s struggle against his or her limitations.’

Filed under: Steinberg, Vonnegut