Futility and its remedies

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Trying to write an equestrian article for Sports Illustrated, Kurt Vonnegut stared at the blank page all day before typing, “The horse jumped over the fucking fence.” He then left the offices of the magazine and never came back.

“For years I was tormented by the thought” Kafka wrote in an undelivered letter, “that this giant man, my father, could almost without reason come to me in the night, and lift me out of bed, and leave me on the balcony.” Kafka believed his domineering father saw him as nothing, vermin, a worthless insect. Rather than dispute this view, the writer instead took on the identity of one Gregor Samsa and then took to his bed.

Occasionally, when he received visitors, Samuel Beckett would take great care not to turn the lights on in his Parisian apartment. As the sun set and night began to fill the room, Beckett, a…

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