Pg. 35 of David Markson’s copy of Fates Worse than Death by Kurt Vonnegut:
On which Markson placed a check next to the rules of Nelson Algren that Vonnegut relays:
“The three rules are, of course: Never eat at a place called Mom’s, never play cards with a man named Doc, and most important, never go to bed with anybody who has more troubles than you do.”
Keep thinking about that last one (the most important one):
“Never go to bed with anybody who has more troubles than you do.”
I’m reminded of Vonnegut’s wife, Jill Krementz.
Though who really knows who had more troubles, Kurt or Jill?
Krementz was a photographer who, in 1970, decided to “fill the author picture vacuum” and began a large collection of author photos.
She is mentioned, in this capacity, in Markson’s Springer’s Progress:
“Truer gauge of how gemlike’s his flame. Never been asked to pose for Jill Krementz.”
Though Markson had something more to say of her in private to Vonnegut biographer Charles J. Shields years later…
When I interviewed Shields, he said to me of Markson:
“He told a story about his impressions of Jill Krementz, Kurt’s wife, at Vonnegut’s memorial service. But I’d rather not repeat it.”
Someone on Amazon wrote about how Jill Krementz comes off in Shields’ Vonnegut biography And So It Goes by saying:
“Jill Krementz, a photographer who comes off in the book as having the charm and graciousness of Lady Macbeth.”
I loved that description so much I had to include it here.
Shields wrote in the biography of the marital problems of Kurt and Jill that were taking place at the exact same time as Kurt was publishing the book from which the above scan is taken, Fates Worse Than Death:
“To make it clear that Kurt was no longer wanted, Jill changed the locks on their home on East Forty-eighth Street and emptied the rooms and closets of his belongings. According to a statement he later supplied to his attorney, the breathlessness with which she announced to him that she and DuBrul were in love and talking marriage was almost as though Vonnegut were ‘her daddy rather than her husband. She also called several friends to tell them the wonderful news of the divorce and remarriage in prospect.’ All the details came pouring out. Days she had supposedly gone on photo shoots she had been with DuBrul. Nights when she left work in her gallery across the street were excuses for rendezvous.
The whole business struck Vonnegut as ‘lugubrious, ill-natured, low comedy’—except for the maddening inconvenience of being banned from his own home.
In a way, though, Kurt was’t surprised that his ‘unloving wife, wholly without domestic skills,’ who could barely stand to have him ‘touch her Rolodex,’ finally wanted out of the marriage. Not was he all that amazed when she changed the locks on the brownstone he owned so he couldn’t live there. What really took him aback were her final requests of him: make haste in divrcing her, ‘remember her’ in his will, and please leave her a parking space for her Cadillac in a nearby garage.”
His first wife, Jane, could see Jill’s problems, and oddly forecasted:
Jill Krementz “will find ways to cut you off from your home, your friends, and your own conscience.”
Quoted Charles J. Shields on pg. 292 of And So It Goes.
Strange that Jill would literally end up locking him out of his own home not once, but twice.
Later, after DuBrul left Jill, she wanted Vonnegut back, and didn’t want the divorce any longer (they hadn’t yet officially divorced).
“He didn’t agree,” wrote Shields on pg. 389 of the biography. “She had mistreated him, ‘the half-dead goose which laid golden eggs for her for so many years,’ and he wanted a divorce on any grounds with as little fanfare as possible.”
Yet, they never got divorced.
Though Vonnegut filed for a divorce a total of three separate times, they always reconciled—but their relationship was apparently always on the rocks, if Shields’ descriptions are to be believed, and she was very icy towards him, and incredibly cruel at times.
On pg. 392, Shields writes of Vonnegut explaining to one of his daughters why he was reconciling with Jill:
“To Nanny, he offered the plaintive excuse that Jill was his ‘disease.’”
Never go to bed with anybody who has more troubles than you do.
Fates worse than death…
But hey at least she was beautiful, according to Vonnegut:
“Scientists of the future will want to know if any of the photographs of Jill in this book have been retouched. No. Let them explain, if they can, why it was that the older she was the more beautiful she became.”
- Kurt Vonnegut, Fates Worse Than Death, pg. 90.
“I never knew a writer’s wife who wasn’t beautiful.
Said Kurt Vonnegut.”
- David Markson, The Last Novel, pg. 101.