Rudolf Waltz's principal objection to life was that it was too easy to make horrible mistakes. He was himself to become a double-murderer at the age of twelve - on Mother's Day. This would at least make subsequent mistakes seem fairly trivial.
Rudolf's father, Otto Waltz, had in 1910 bought a painting in Vienna from a destitute Adolf Hitler, thereby possibly saving him from starvation for a future generation. He made the further mistake of setting himself up as an artist when he returned from Europe to Midland City, Ohio, where everyone knew Otto couldn't draw for sour apples. He had funds to indulge this grand illusion (in the splendor of a vast converted 'medieval granary' studio, reminiscent of Mount Fujiyama) because his father had made a fortune producing an opium-and-cocaine-laced quack medicine called Saint Elmo's Remedy, popularly known to be 'absolutely harmless unless discontinued'. The Waltz inheritance even stretched to a troupe of black servants, which was just as well since Rudy's mother was as disinclined to look after a home as his 'artist' father was to paint.
In this fake news and post-truth era, The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World and Slaughterhouse 5 have enjoyed a renaissance. These unprecedented times perhaps aren't so unprecedented...
You already know that your favourite authors know how to wield a pen when it comes to writing fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, but have you ever read any of their personal writing? We’ve compiled a list of outstanding diarists and correspondents to inspire you to pick up a pen this year.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote over 25 books in his career, from Slaughterhouse 5 to Breakfast of Champions. Within their pages are some of the wisest words on love, life, war, kindness and aliens. VINTAGE editor Frances Macmillan picks her favourite Vonnegut quotes.