PDF Kurt Vonnegut Jr. ´ Letters MOBI ¼ ´

This extraordinary collection of personal correspondence has all the hallmarks of Kurt Vonnegut's fiction Written over a sixty year period these letters the vast majority of them never before published are funny moving and full of the same uncanny wisdom that has endeared his work to readers worldwide Included in this comprehensive volume the letter a twenty two year old Vonnegut wrote home immediately upon being freed from a German POW camp recounting the ghastly firebombing of Dresden that would be the subject of his masterpiece Slaughterhouse Five; wry dispatches from Vonnegut's years as a struggling writer slowly finding an audience and then dealing with sudden international fame in middle age; righteously angry letters of protest to local school boards that tried to ban his work; intimate remembrances penned to high school classmates fellow veterans friends and family; and letters of commiseration and encouragement to such contemporaries as Gail Godwin Gunter Grass and Bernard Malamud Vonnegut's unmediated observations on science art and commerce prove to be just as inventive as any found in his novels from a crackpot scheme for manufacturing atomic bow ties to a tongue in cheek proposal that publishers be allowed to trade authors like baseball players Knopf for example might give John Updike's contract to Simon and Schuster and receive Joan Didion's contract in return Taken together these letters add considerable depth to our understanding of this one of a kind literary icon in both his public and private lives Each letter brims with the mordant humor and openhearted humanism upon which he built his legend And virtually every page contains a uotable nugget that will make its way into the permanent Vonnegut lexicon On a job he had as a young man Hell is running an elevator throughout eternity in a building with only six floors To a relative who calls him a great literary figure I am an American fad of a slightly higher order than the hula hoop To his daughter Nanny Most letters from a parent contain a parent's own lost dreams disguised as good advice To Norman Mailer I am cuter than you are Sometimes biting and ironical sometimes achingly sweet and always alive with the uniue point of view that made him the true cultural heir to Mark Twain these letters comprise the autobiography Kurt Vonnegut never wrote


10 thoughts on “Letters

  1. says:

    I've never read a book of an author's correspondence before At first it was actually a bit unnerving As obsessed as I wasam with Kurt Vonnegut deducing his address from his autobiographical fiction so that I could mail him birthday cards getting his daughter to meet me for coffee in Northampton MA I felt awkward reading such personal communiues First as with Shields's biography I am forced to see my hero as a mere human This is especially uneasy when reading about his early life when he was just a regular guy I felt like a voyeur spying on intimate family interactions like in his heartfelt letter to relatives “How is KIT?????Does he walk yet? How did he take the trip?Kiss your beautiful child for us and give him a happy drool from his cousin mark I think Kit would be interested in Mark now that he makes noisesWould that they could grow up together” 22 Or the sheer joy he expresses over owning a house and the gratitude he expresses for his brother to his father Then there's the feeling of being a Peeping Tom peeping into someone's deep worriesinsecuritiestroubles “My life at 33 years of age hangs by a thread That damned play has just got to be produced Yet it looks like it won’t be My sister is poverty stricken and I mean poverty stricken at age 38 and she says she is damn well fed up with the character building aspects of disappointment Me too” 62 Conversely I do think that much of the pathos comes from the very real realization that Kurt Vonnegut is a very real personOnce I became accustomed to my place at the window sill of his life there was nothing left for me to do but purely enjoy this reading experience I still got that emotional beat in my chest and moisture in my eye when I'd read his letters to his family but it wasn't twinged with guilt His letters to his children especially those to Nanny perhaps because she is the most real to me are so incredibly poignant that it amazes me people still sent letters like that in the late 20th century and it makes me lament the loss of letter writing and disdain the text speak that has taken its place One of my favorite uotations from a letter to Nanny “You’re learning now that you do not inhabit a solid reliable social structure—that the older people around you are worried moody goofy human beings who themselves were little kids only a few days ago” 176Two other uotations I likedTo describe his writing style “I write with a big black crayon you know grasped in a grubby kindergarten fistIf you want to kind of try what I do take life seriously but none of the people in it” 139To describe Timeuake “It’s beyond post modern It’s positively posthumous” 372


  2. says:

    In the Trump era it's Vonnegut's words that still shine God damn it you've got to be kind Few eually beautiful words have even been written That old atheist Vonnegut was right Even if we fail all the effort was worth it for the friendships the struggles and the laughs along the way


  3. says:

    I thought I'd overdosed on Vonnegut Apparently not His non fiction has always been as charming and insightful as his fiction But with his letters you really get a sense of his journey as a writer and a person In a schadenfreude way it's very satisfying to see how his career was by no means certain How almost no one including members of his own family read or respected his first five books How he constantly felt like he was out of ideas struggling to write How even after he became successful his personal life began to disintegrate How even after he became successful critics still jumped at the opportunity to give his later books bad reviews But against all that he was still one of the coolest guys to ever live


  4. says:

    I enjoy reading collections of letters from novelists although I'm not sure most of them were ever intended to see the light of publication These letters cover from Vonnegut's liberation as a POW to the last weeks of his life when he admitted he was no longer writing anything besides lettersMost of the letters are glib and dryly humorous and injected with the familiar Vonnegut anomie and anyone seeking bold insights into the inner workings of Kurt Vonnegut might be disappointed The early years when he was taking magazine hack work and inventing board games and bowtie designs in order to try and make a buck are well described There are generally no detailed blow by blows of the creative process other than to describe writing as a financial dead end There are bitchy exchanges with agents The depression he battled for much of his life shows up reliably throughout the decades There is evidence of various family dysfunctions There is very little anger and a good deal of sadness It is fairly obvious his second marriage was a grim place to be for the last 15 years of his life even if it didn't start that way Restoring the family fortune wiped out in the Depression was important to him and Vonnegut freuently points out how many people are depending on his paycheck The threat of censorship and the struggles of writers in totalitarian regimes were critical battles worth waging Critics stung him with their conclusions that his books were just garbage written for hippies But like Bukowski says maybe true genius is saying something profound in a simple way?The editor cleaned up the grammar and spelling errors and some of the cryptically confusing inside stuff However a few of the letters still come off as cryptic although entertaining I don't know much about Vonnegut than I did when I started the book although I'm not exactly a Vonnegut scholar Nevertheless I enjoyed this oneI was going to loan this book to my wife to read next but Vonnegut made me think twice about it after reading something he wrote in one of his letters educating a beautiful woman is like pouring honey into a fine Swiss watch Everything stops


  5. says:

    On April 11 2007 Kurt Vonnegut Jr passed away I was just beginning my second trimester and did not yet know we were going to have a son My husband and I had a girl’s name all picked out but were still throwing boy names around After the news came of Vonnegut’s death my husband and I were discussing it over dinner I’ve read of his works and was telling him why he was one of my favorite writers My husband realized that Vonnegut spelled his first name the same as Kurt Cobain one of his favorite musicians That night we knew we had found our boy’s name Our son Kurt just celebrated his sixth birthday which happens to fall on the anniversary of John Lennon’s birth The kid does not lack inspiration for greatness and I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes in life So I become incredibly excited whenever a new Vonnegut book comes out probably much excited than my husband was at the prospect of a Nirvana reunionI was especially intrigued when I learned “Letters” was being published I added it to my wish list prior to its release date something I rarely do Vonnegut’s books tend to have an autobiographical tinge to them and I was anxious to have insight into his personal life via this collection of correspondence I also read how this collection included letters to schools that banned “Slaughterhouse 5” and correctly assume he would have put those people suarely in their place I was not disappointed The letter written to one Charles McCarthy chairman of the Drake School Board of Drake North Dakota on November 16 1973 alone is worth the purchase price of the book the hardback issueEspecially fascinating were Vonnegut’s letters to his children particularly the ones to his daughter Nanny after he and his wife Jane separated These letters were particularly raw and openly honest about his state of mind depression and the shortcomings as a father he saw in himself He addressed all his children including “the orphans” the nephews he raised after the tragic deaths of his sister and brother in law as adults I noticed he tended to speak candidly to them as if they were trusted friends than his children often offering sage advice regarding life and career In one letter to his daughter Nanny he spoke uite frankly about the divorce his relationship with Jill and reassured her repeatedly that it was not of any doing of hers or her siblings that he did not leave her mother for another woman and that he still deeply cared for and valued his friendship with her mother Jane In a letter dated November 2 1972 he writes to Nanny “You have caught onto something I only learned in the past month or so – that terrific depressions are going to crunch me down at regular intervals and that they have nothing to do with what is going on around me”In a letter dated March 17 1974 he acknowledged the difficulties of the divorce and changing family dynamic “As for Jill herself It would help a lot though if you would understand that she has been very good to me during the most shattering years of my life and that she was not the one who did the shattering Jane didn’t do the shattering either and neither did money or success The entirety of life did the shattering”His relationship with Nanny was particularly troubled and difficult Vonnegut often took the blame for their lack of closeness and understanding of each other “It is only natural that you should feel reserved and insecure when you’re with me since I’ve caused two huge disruptions in the continuity of the family and since you saw so much of me when I worked at home when I had to raise such hell in order to gain privacy in which to write Also I was worried sick about money all the time and I had no friends on Cape Cod who had any idea what my sort of work entailed Just to clarify the two disruptions I’m talking about I mean the adoption of the Adams and my leaving the Cape for New York So there we are” January 10 1973Yet he was capable of being hurt and at least once let her know “I would find such indifference to my feelings painful even if it came from a little kid You are chronologically a grown up now But you are clearly unable to imagine me as a living interesting sensitive vulnerable human being God only knows what you think I am” August 19 1975It was these scattered letters to Nanny that I found most touching his repeated attempts to connect with his daughter and his struggles to forge relationships with all his children as well as his continued devotion to his first wife and love I found it strange that even though there were many letters to his children including the Adams boys and his first wife Jane there are no letters at all to his second wife Jill and the daughter they adopted together All we know of these relationships is from references in letters to othersThe book opens with an introduction written by the editor which reads as a fascinating witty mini biography The letters are organized chronologically each decade its own chapter with an introduction also written by the editor There were actually only a few letters regarding censorship or politics but the few were truly treasured gems In the chapters of letters from the 1960s and 1970s there were uite a few letters that spoke of his time in the army and as a POW in Dresden These were fascinating as well The bulk of the letters were of a professional nature among industry colleagues or updating friends and family of his latest professional endeavors While some of this is interesting and I learned a great deal about Vonnegut’s varied body of work after a while it became tedious At the most these served as the background from which the really interesting passages stood out The editor Dan Wakefield was a close friend of Vonnegut’s for most of his life In a way this really added to the content as he shared much detail in the introductions to each chapter and in the notes for individual letters Through these details and Vonnegut’s own words a picture was painted of Vonnegut as a troubled complicated flawed man and artist and a loving devoted and loyal person As a close friend Wakefield is able to show us Vonnegut as few others could but he is also able to protect his friend and mentor In the Editor’s Note Wakefield states that he omitted passages of letters to avoid repetition and edit out private details and irrelevant or obscure references This makes me wonder what the ellipses replace and what secret skeletons are left in the Vonnegut closet Perhaps it is just as wellIt is often debated whenever the private correspondence of deceased famous people is published to an international audience whether this is an invasion of privacy Surely people like Vonnegut and Ed Abbey never intended for their day to day correspondence to be digested by the masses Usually these books are researched collected and edited all with the expressed approval of family but does the family even have that right? I have been to many museum exhibits showcasing the letters of the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain The only difference here is the passage of time In October 1995 Vonnegut’s brother Bernard asked why information about the artist was necessary to judge paintings His response “Contemplating a purported work of art is a social activity Either you have a good time or you don’t You don’t have to say why afterwards You don’t have to say anything People capable of loving some paintings or etchings or whatever can rarely do this without knowing something about the artist Again the situation is social rather than scientific Any work of art is one half of a conversation between two human beings and it helps a lot to know who is talking at you So I dare to suggest that no picture can attract serious attention without a human being attached to it in the viewer’s mind” October 11 1995This can easily be applied to the pictures painted by an author not to mention one who also happened to draw and design silk screen prints I believe that it is possible to get uite a lot out of a piece of art as it stands alone Some of the most moving poems in the classical canon are by “Anonymous” I have often been incredibly moved by a painting or photograph before knowing anything about the artist However you can only get so far before your mind starts to subconsciously fill in the gaps of missing information After a while you start imagining a fantasy of the artist your own personal version necessary to continue the conversation initiated by the piece of art This is inevitable unless you learn about the author or artist which is why people publish biographies and autobiographies Publishing correspondence is simply an extension of that as it gives us added insight of authors who have passed away After all if we continued to keep things private after the person passed away we wouldn’t have been able to read any poems by Emily Dickinson Overall this collection of letters was not what I was expecting I expected pearls of wisdom and less snippets of a normal humdrum life It was still an interesting read giving both insights into the life of the author and also life in general throughout the decades Vonnegut’s letters were mostly void of the creative tone that encompass his novels though his uintessential cynicism and wit is prevalent all the way to the letters written shortly before his death Despite not having an overly happy and satisfying life Vonnegut continued to be productive till the end accomplishing much in both his personal and professional life I hope when he closed his eyes for the last time in early April 2007 he was able to find the peace that comes with great accomplishment


  6. says:

    Read Harder Challenge number one An epistolary novel or collection of lettersI started this first Read Harder Challenge thinking it would be easy Vonnegut is one of my favourite authors and even in the early going before he was really pursuing a career as an author the letters were well written and full of his witHowever I did find it hard going reading for than five minutes was exhausting the letters didn't uite add up to a story and there was nothing driving me to the next page All correspondence was one way so there's nothing in the way of dialogue and it's clear that Vonnegut is projecting the self he wants his reader to see in the letters it's most often not hugely personal or honest and you can see the differences between friends colleagues family and strangers In this regard a future version of such a book for a person in today's world might be a curated set of posts to social mediaIt was however an interesting and different way to view a person's life and work A worthwhile Read Harder Challenge


  7. says:

    I received this book as a giveaway through Goodreads Thank you very much for the opportunity to read and review this book This review is also posted on my blog at biblio filiacomDear Neil Gaiman Christopher Barzak and Maureen McHugh Dear Richard Russo Ann Patchett and Jonathan Lethem and dear Kevin Powers dear Patrick Ness and dear Erin Morganstern Twenty years from now I don't want to read The Collected Facebook Statuses of Nor do I want to read The Collected Blog Posts of or even The Twitter Feed ofDo you have a fellow author you mentor? Are you writing them letters? How about children aunts cousins high school friends teachers do you sit down and write them a letter once in a while?Please doI have just finished reading Letters by Kurt Vonnegut edited by his friend and fellow author Dan Wakefield I feel like a door has been opened into the mind and life of Mr Vonnegut and my impression of the man and his writing has been utterly changed and deepenedI guess I had always assumed that Kurt Vonnegut was probably most like his character Kilgore Trout the strange and stoically unsuccessful scifi author that is featured in many of Vonnegut's novels Instead I have come to know a man who cared passionately about his family including his former wife Jane He kept up a correspondence with many other writers especially the authors he met while teaching at the Iowa Writer's Workshop His encouragement and advice to these writers continued from the time he met them in the late sixties all the way up until his death in 2007He also wrote to his teachers army friends and kept up a lifelong correspondence with friends from his high school in Indianapolis Vonnegut also felt very strongly about censorship and free speech There are uite a few letters in this collection previously unpublished sent privately to the towns and school boards that proposed banning his works from their libraries Standout correspondence from Vonnegut that touched my heart were his tender often apologetic letters to his daughter Nanny Nanny appears to have had a difficult time with her parents divorce difficult than her parents even and Vonnegut time and again reassures her that the divorce had nothing to do with her or another woman The letters are those of a man whose heart is laid bareAnytime you want to come here do it I have not schedule to upset no secrets to hide no privacy to guard from you Letters p 177That's not to say that Vonnegut doesn't get a bit testy a la Kilgore from time to time Difficulties with his agents and lawyers are documented in his letters It's comforting to know from editor Wakefield's notes that Vonnegut did resolve his estrangement from his long time agent and they resumed their friendship One of the most amusing letters is from November 1999 sent to Ms Noel Sturgeon daughter of the famous scifi author Theodore Sturgeon Ms Sturgeon wrote to Vonnegut reuesting that he write an introduction to a new edition of her father's short stories Vonnegut's reply to her explained the relationship between Theodore Sturgeon real life scifi author and Kilgore Trout fictional scifi author created by Vonnegut Here Vonnegut explains once and for all was Sturgeon the model for TroutWe knew each other's work but had never met Bingo There we were face to face at last at suppertime in my living roomTed had been writing non stop nor days or maybe weeks He was skinny and haggard underpaid and unappreciated outside the ghetto science fiction was then He announced that he was going to do a standing back flip which he did He landed on his knees with a crash which shook the whole house When he got back on his feet humiliated and laughing in agony one of the best writers in America was indeed but only for a moment my model for Kilgore Trout Letters p388Wakefield has grouped the letters by decade and has written an introductory note to each section that frames the major events in Vonnegut's life during that period This was very helpful However there were a few significant letters most obviously the angry letter Vonnegut writes after discovering that his second wife is having an affair that Wakefield never addresses in his notes Unless I read a biography of Vonnegut I'm not going to learn the context of that letter Also Wakefield did some editing of the body of the letters for understandable reasons removing addresses phone numbers and repetitions However his explanation for his edits appears in the afterword I ended up baffled by the ellipses at the beginning and searched through the book to find Wakefield's explanation at the back I do think that would have been better placed at the beginning of the collectionA letter written just for a specific person conveys so much of the writer's personality than anything written for general public consumption like a blog post And I do believe that the act of putting pen to paper makes a writer feel responsible to write something with thought behind it unlike the many uick emails we dash off on a daily basisSo all of you wonderful writers that I have addressed this review to please do your fans a favor and write some letters Not emails not blog posts but real honest to god written thoughtfully on paper LETTERS


  8. says:

    Kurt Vonnegut witnessed the absolute best and worst of humanity in his lifetime He survived the Dresden bombing his mother committed suicide and he and his wife adopted his sisters four children after she and her husband both died within a day of each other I find him and his life fascinating Some of these letters were monotonous but most of them were subtly beautiful My favorite letters were the ones to his children so tender and sweet Vonnegut is one of those people that I would list when asked Who would you most want to meet living or dead? My favorite passage I am off to the city tomorrow Thursday and then to the outskirts of Chicago to Harper College where I will tell my audience about the pregnant woman who asked me in a letter if it was wrong to bring an innocent baby into a world as awful as this one I told her that what made being alive most worthwhile for me was all the saints I met almost anywhere people who were behaving decently in an indecent society I will tell the audience that I hope some among them will become saints for her child to meet


  9. says:

    45 starsThe letters from the 1950s felt a little slow but the 1960s and beyond really picked up and covered a broad range of subjectsIn a letter to Norman Mailer in 1960 Vonnegut wrote “When society found out it was honoring works of art by censoring them it stopped doing it” p 78To Gail Godwin in 1967 “If you want to kind of try what I do take life seriously but none of the people in it” p 139The draft letter he sent in 1967 on behalf of his son Mark is particularly interesting p140 as is the famous letter he sent to Charles McCarthy in 1973 after the chairman burned Vonnegut’s books p 208 Throughout his letters Vonnegut discusses the issue of censorship many times and praises the teachers who defend books Another great example is a letter he wrote to William Kennedy a secondary school teacher fighting to keep Vonnegut’s books in the classroom see page 322To his wife Jane in 1974 he wrote that “The secret of good writing is caring” p221“For me poems are presents to be exchanged within an extended family” p 298In the 90s and 2000s Vonnegut’s correspondence turns darker as and of his friends and colleagues die “I do what I can but it never seems enough” he wrote to a friend p 352 I never expected to be putting my own generation to bed” he writes on page 359 “But here I am saying ‘Sleep tight’ to damn near everyone I ever cared about”I was surprised also to read that his relationship with wife Jill was not as strong as I thought and there was much fighting and talk of divorceFinally it is Vonnegut’s writing advice that I think carries the most weight A letter from 1996 offers such gems as “The secret to universality is provincialism” and “A writer is first and foremost a teacher” See page 368 for other great pieces of adviceOverall Vonnegut comes across as painfully human in this collection of work He worried about his marriage and children and finances Towards the end of his life he believed he had no great ideas to share or write about I would have liked a bit from the last ten years of his life but this is a solid collection


  10. says:

    I am enchanted by the Sermon on the Mount Being merciful it seems to me is the only good idea we have received so farI don't imagine things understand and I don't do strange things and I don't write incoherently It's just that I don't seem to be very nice or useful or enthusiastic any'If this isn't good what is?' He says it often It's a fine lineThey don't know how great I am yet It will take them about six weeks to understandSometimes the classes go good sometimes they go lousy That's show businessI received a report recently to the effect that you have been exceptionally blue and it makes me so God damned sad Please buddy won't you do things about it? Life could be so great for youI keep thinking that I can't do anything which is dead wrongSomething telepathic has busted between us and I don't know how to fix itHe will not hate He will not kill There's hope in that There's no hope in warWe have a saying around here 'Mark knows what he's doing' We believe it We love you We respect you We think you will have a wonderful lifeAs Colonel Littauer said to me one time when I was bitter about being broke 'Who asked you to be a writer in the first place?'I admire fiction am amused and excited by the oversimplification of life it represents I don't want to become a character in fiction myself however and I want to get along very well with you So you can do me an enormous favor by thinking of me as a person afloat in time as you are rather than as a character locked into the machinery of a fiction plot with villains and temptresses and so on The hell of it is that it is so easy to turn anybody's life into some kind of story we have heard beforeI told her that what made being alive almost worthwhile for me was all the saints I met almost anywhere people who were behaving decently in an indecent society I will tell the audience that I hope some among them will become saints for her child to meetKeep your hat on We may wind up miles from hereWhat a crabby old poop