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Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to high school students: ‘Pretend you’re Count Dracula!’
10.06.2014
05:33 am

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Heroes
Literature

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Kurt Vonnegut

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Years ago when I was a producer in television,  I recall that there were many discussions on how broadcasters could encourage younger viewers to have brand loyalty with a particular channel. The proposed idea was that if a broadcaster could successfully capture (strange choice of word, I know) a young audience then they were building the consumers of their future output. A rather obvious idea but one that appeared to work—well, at least for me, as I still look with particularly fondness on those shows that illuminated my childhood, and by association the broadcaster. The holy grail here was considered to be quality returnable series and quirky presenters with whom the young ‘uns could identify and grow up with.

I have been told publishers have similar discussions on inculcating brand loyalty through their authors. So you would think, therefore, that when a group of teenagers were set a project by their school teacher encouraging them to write a letter to their favorite author, that these chosen writers would leap at the chance to win over their future readers. Well apparently not, as one class of pupils at Xavier High School in New York found out in 2006, when their teacher (Ms. Lockwood) set this task, and letters were sent out to a variety of authors, with only one writer taking the time to reply.

Perhaps it will come as no surprise that it was the great pessimistic humanist Kurt Vonnegut who was the only author to write back. Who the others were, I don’t know, but I wonder if they’re still popular with readers at Xavier High? Anyway, Vonnegut took the time to read the letter, which asked requested that he make a personal appearance at Xavier. Vonnegut was then 84, “an old geezer” as he called himself, and demurred visiting the school. However, he did offer the five students and their teacher some fine advice on how best to experience life and to grow their souls. It’s a beautiful letter, giving some of the most inspiring advice any high school student could ask for.

November 5, 2006

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

 
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In 2014, Dogtooth Films made a short film based on Kurt Vonnegut’s letter, using pupils from Hove Park School.
 

 
Via Letters of Note

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Kurt Vonnegut/Alice Cooper Mutual Admiration Society
06.02.2014
08:42 am

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Literature
Music

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Alice Cooper
Kurt Vonnegut


 
On December 7, 1973 Alice Cooper had the opportunity to meet one of his personal idols and favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, at a party on the eve of the Billion Dollar Babies/Muscle of Love  holiday tour. During this hectic but successful period in his career, Alice partied like, well, a rock star, and hung out with unexpected celebrities like Liza Minnelli and Ronnie Spector, who both sang back-up on his group’s Muscle of Love album, not to mention Chubby Checker, Elvis Presley and porn star Linda Lovelace. That’s not even counting his hard-drinking “Hollywood Vampires” crew from the Rainbow Bar, which included Keith Moon (“Keith was like a battery that never ran out. It got to the stage with Keith where I’d hear he was in town and hide somewhere because I couldn’t face another bender.”), John Lennon, Micky Dolenz from The Monkees, Harry Nilsson, and Ringo Starr.

That night Vonnegut promised Alice a signed copy of his new book, Breakfast of Champions and Alice was thrilled when the promise was actually fulfilled. He said:

When you meet famous people, they always say they’ll send you stuff and they never do. But Vonnegut sent the stuff down and I was so thrilled. I sent him all our albums and T-shirts and posters. I’m a Vonnegut fan forever.

Alice always named Vonnegut as his favorite author, listing him as such in the tour program for his 1977 Lace and Whiskey tour. It’s not surprising that he enjoyed Vonnegut’s similarly dark humor. In particular he loved Vonnegut’s masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Five, still citing it as his “desert island book” on BBC 4’s Desert Island Discs in 2010. It was reported in the mid-‘70s that he was up for the role of Bunny Hoover, a gay lounge piano player at an Indianapolis Holiday Inn he described as “the kind of guy you hate the minute you see him,” in Robert Altman’s movie adaptation of the book, presumably with Vonnegut’s approval. While that would have been truly awesome, the project fell through. The movie wasn’t made for another twenty-six years, and then it was without Alice and Altman (and some would argue, Vonnegut!)

When asked by The Quietus about his recurring character “Steven,” Alice mentioned Vonnegut’s influence:

I used to read a lot of Kurt Vonnegut and when I’d read all the Vonnegut books I realized there was a character [Kilgore Trout] that always ran through the books. He was sort of this character that just kept showing up. For no apparent reason and no apparent connection to the story. And I kind of liked that. So Steven, he’s a mystery to me too but I like throwing him in. I like throwing Steven in whenever I can so that when people go “Where is Steven?” I can say “He’s right there.” He’s kind of like a spirit, an Alice Cooper spirit.

The new film Super Duper Alice Cooper is released tomorrow on DVD and Blu-ray by Eagle Rock Entertainment. Expect a review here in the coming days.

Pre-sobriety Alice on Finnish TV, 1973, below:
 

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Kurt Vonnegut interviewed by Jon Stewart in one of his last major TV appearances
05.06.2014
03:15 pm

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Books
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Television

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Jon Stewart


 
Over the weekend, I re-read Loree Rackstraw’s tender memoir Love as Always, Kurt: Vonnegut as I Knew Him. I’ve mentioned the book on this blog a few times, it’s an absolutely charming read and certainly a book that will be seen, in time, to be one of the most important works that has been, or will ever be written about the great novelist. The reason for this is simple: None of the rest of Vonnegut’s biographers have slept with him and none of them knew the man for 40 years

For now though, the book is unfairly unknown except by the most hardcore Vonnegut fans (you can buy it for a penny on Amazon). Rackstraw met Vonnegut in 1965. She was a divorced single mother and second year student and he was a married writer teaching at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop MFA program. Slaughterhouse-Five was still a few years away from publication, although his star had been rising for some time. They had an affair that turned into a lifelong friendship and Rackstraw’s book contains significant excerpts from Vonnegut’s deeply tender (and funny) letters covering the four decades of their relationship. “I realized I possessed quite a remarkable chronological story of his life,” Rackstraw said. “We were very close. It was a friendship unlike any I’ve had with anyone.”

Seriously, if you’re at all interested in what Kurt Vonnegut was like as a person, Love as Always, Kurt: Vonnegut as I Knew Him is a book you’ll want to pick up. I’m happy to plug it on DM again.

But as I got to the book’s final pages, I noticed something interesting and that was a mention of one of Vonnegut’s last major television appearances, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in 2005. Vonnegut was then 82 and promoting his then recent book, A Man Without a Country. Although the effects of advancing age are apparent on his body as he walks slowly to his chair, his mind was still quite sharp as he sits down to offer his wisdom on the topic of evolution. The great writer then proceeds to give George Bush a rather spectacular back-handed compliment…

Wunderbar stuff, but with these two meeting face to face, what else could it have been? After Vonnegut absolutely excoriates Donald Rumsfeld, Stewart quips “I’m very sorry to see you’ve lost your edge.”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The seldom-seen squiggles of Kurt Vonnegut
04.22.2014
07:22 am

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Art
Books
Literature

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Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut
“Untitled,” 1985
 
Anyone with any familiarity with Kurt Vonnegut’s literary output probably knows that the man liked to doodle. His whimsical self-portrait, the one that emphasized his mustache, is very familiar, making an appearance in his 1973 masterpiece Breakfast of Champions and many other places. Breakfast of Champions, of course, featured all manner of little drawings as a non-textual means of furthering the story.

Next month a handsome coffee table book, Kurt Vonnegut Drawings, from the Monacelli Press, featuring hitherto unavailable artworks, will go on sale (the list price is $40, but you can pre-order it for $25.40). The book will feature 145 selections of his work.
 
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Vonnegut was a fervent believer in the importance of art as a means of enhancing everyday life, and these interesting drawings are the proof. He used pen and (quite clearly) magic marker for these artworks. They remind me most of all of Joan Miró (esp. the Janus-like piece from 1987) and Saul Steinberg (esp. the one with the wavy hair from the same year).
 
Kurt Vonnegut
“Untitled,” no date
 
Kurt Vonnegut
“Untitled,” no date
 
Kurt Vonnegut
“Untitled,” 1980
 
Kurt Vonnegut
“Self-Portrait,” 1985
 
More of Vonnegut’s amusing art after the jump…..

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Bad news: Kurt Vonnegut’s bleak advice to humankind in 2088
03.26.2014
02:57 pm

Topics:
Environment
Literature

Tags:
Kurt Vonnegut


 
When Kurt Vonnegut died in 2007, I recall reading about his passing and being quite depressed at the thought of a world without him in it. I read all of his books when I was a kid—some of them several times over—and like many of my generation (and the one above it) I very much internalized Kurt Vonnegut’s notoriously pessimistic, but ultimately kind-hearted view of mankind. I can also say, without hesitation, that his way of looking at the absurdities of life made a lot more sense to me than the religion that my parents tried to stuff down my throat at that age.

His was one of the most important moral—and comic—voices of 20th century American literature. Who else besides Kurt Vonnegut could be considered in the same league as say, Mark Twain?

When he died a great voice was silenced, but from time to time, something unanthologized or a previously unseen letter will surface (Love as Always, Kurt: Vonnegut as I Knew Him by Loree Rackstraw, a woman he’d once had an affair with and stayed friends with, is a terrific, if little-known, intimate portrait of the man, including many of his letters). Recently Letters of Note uncovered Vonnegut’s contribution to a Volkswagen ad campaign that ran in TIME magazine in 1988. The campaign asked notable people to write letters to those living 100 years in the future:

Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088:

It has been suggested that you might welcome words of wisdom from the past, and that several of us in the twentieth century should send you some. Do you know this advice from Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: ‘This above all: to thine own self be true’? Or what about these instructions from St. John the Divine: ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment has come’? The best advice from my own era for you or for just about anybody anytime, I guess, is a prayer first used by alcoholics who hoped to never take a drink again: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.’

Our century hasn’t been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation: how many of us there were, how much food we could raise or gather, how fast we were reproducing, what made us sick, what made us die, how much damage we were doing to the air and water and topsoil on which most life forms depended, how violent and heartless nature can be, and on and on. Who could wax wise with so much bad news pouring in?

For me, the most paralyzing news was that Nature was no conservationist. It needed no help from us in taking the planet apart and putting it back together some different way, not necessarily improving it from the viewpoint of living things. It set fire to forests with lightning bolts. It paved vast tracts of arable land with lava, which could no more support life than big-city parking lots. It had in the past sent glaciers down from the North Pole to grind up major portions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Nor was there any reason to think that it wouldn’t do that again someday. At this very moment it is turning African farms to deserts, and can be expected to heave up tidal waves or shower down white-hot boulders from outer space at any time. It has not only exterminated exquisitely evolved species in a twinkling, but drained oceans and drowned continents as well. If people think Nature is their friend, then they sure don’t need an enemy.

Yes, and as you people a hundred years from now must know full well, and as your grandchildren will know even better: Nature is ruthless when it comes to matching the quantity of life in any given place at any given time to the quantity of nourishment available. So what have you and Nature done about overpopulation? Back here in 1988, we were seeing ourselves as a new sort of glacier, warm-blooded and clever, unstoppable, about to gobble up everything and then make love—and then double in size again.

On second thought, I am not sure I could bear to hear what you and Nature may have done about too many people for too small a food supply.

And here is a crazy idea I would like to try on you: Is it possible that we aimed rockets with hydrogen bomb warheads at each other, all set to go, in order to take our minds off the deeper problem—how cruelly Nature can be expected to treat us, Nature being Nature, in the by-and-by?

Now that we can discuss the mess we are in with some precision, I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on—during the past seven million years or so. In my time they have been catastrophic as heads of sophisticated institutions with real work to do.

The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature’s stern but reasonable surrender terms:

Reduce and stabilize your population.

Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.

Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.

Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.

Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.

Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.

And so on. Or else.

Am I too pessimistic about life a hundred years from now? Maybe I have spent too much time with scientists and not enough time with speechwriters for politicians. For all I know, even bag ladies and bag gentlemen will have their own personal helicopters or rocket belts in A.D. 2088. Nobody will have to leave home to go to work or school, or even stop watching television. Everybody will sit around all day punching the keys of computer terminals connected to everything there is, and sip orange drink through straws like the astronauts.

Cheers,

Kurt Vonnegut

A perfect prose diamond, right?

I can think of no better coda to this bleak epistle than this clip of Alan Weissman, author of Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?, a new book about the disturbing mathematical trajectory of the overpopulation problem on Real Time with Bill Maher earlier this month… Have a nice day!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Slaughterhouse-Five: 22-year-old POW Kurt Vonnegut writes home about the War

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Kurt Vonnegut was a 22-year-old Private serving in the U.S. Army, when he was captured at the Battle of the Bulge, in December 1944. Together with his fellow POWs, Vonnegut was marched to a work camp in Dresden, named “Slaughterhouse Five.” In this letter details these events and the infamous bombing in February 1945, that was to inspire his best-selling novel.

FROM:

Pfc. K. Vonnegut, Jr.,
12102964 U. S. Army.

TO:

Kurt Vonnegut,
Williams Creek,
Indianapolis, Indiana.

Dear people:

I’m told that you were probably never informed that I was anything other than “missing in action.” Chances are that you also failed to receive any of the letters I wrote from Germany. That leaves me a lot of explaining to do—in precis:

I’ve been a prisoner of war since December 19th, 1944, when our division was cut to ribbons by Hitler’s last desperate thrust through Luxemburg and Belgium. Seven Fanatical Panzer Divisions hit us and cut us off from the rest of Hodges’ First Army. The other American Divisions on our flanks managed to pull out: We were obliged to stay and fight. Bayonets aren’t much good against tanks: Our ammunition, food and medical supplies gave out and our casualties out-numbered those who could still fight - so we gave up. The 106th got a Presidential Citation and some British Decoration from Montgomery for it, I’m told, but I’ll be damned if it was worth it. I was one of the few who weren’t wounded. For that much thank God.

Well, the supermen marched us, without food, water or sleep to Limberg, a distance of about sixty miles, I think, where we were loaded and locked up, sixty men to each small, unventilated, unheated box car. There were no sanitary accommodations—the floors were covered with fresh cow dung. There wasn’t room for all of us to lie down. Half slept while the other half stood. We spent several days, including Christmas, on that Limberg siding. On Christmas eve the Royal Air Force bombed and strafed our unmarked train. They killed about one-hundred-and-fifty of us. We got a little water Christmas Day and moved slowly across Germany to a large P.O.W. Camp in Muhlburg, South of Berlin. We were released from the box cars on New Year’s Day. The Germans herded us through scalding delousing showers. Many men died from shock in the showers after ten days of starvation, thirst and exposure. But I didn’t….

 
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Via Letters of Note
 
The rest of Vonnegut’s letter home, after the jump…
 

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Chuck Colson tribute: From the White House to the big house, Jesus and anti-gay bigotry


 
Former Special Counsel to Richard Nixon and the first from his administration to become a Watergate jailbird, influential Christian leader and anti-gay activist Chuck Colson remains hospitalized in critical condition after suffering a brain hemorrhage last week. In Colson’s honor, Joe.My.God. reminds us of the ridiculous Born Again Christian comic based on Colson’s evangelical memoir of the same title.

Quoting from Gamma Cloud:

Published by Spire Christian Comics in 1978, Born Again is the sugar-coated, “feel good” story of Chuck Colson’s suffering and redemption.  It’s a relatively typical tale in some respects, as Colson professes that he was converted to Evangelical Christianity through the help of his friend Thomas Phillips who had himself been “saved” some time earlier.  Phillips provides Colson with a copy of the C.S. Lewis book Mere Christianity and Colson subsequently immerses himself in the text, learning all kinds of Jesusy insight. (Incidentally, despite the fact that he apparently needed “saving,” Colson effectively maintains that he was basically law-abiding – and apparently naïve and blissfully oblivious of the wrongdoing and unethical behavior swirling around him – throughout all of his work with the Nixon administration and CREEP.) While serving time in a Federal prison for convictions related to the Watergate scandal, Colson shares his enlightenment with other inmates and he ultimately decides to start a ministry and devote his life to spreading the word far and wide.

Well…I guess some of that story is true.

The fact of the matter is that Chuck Colson: Born Again is nothing short of a grand and glorious collection of obfuscation and half-truths.  Colson’s yarn portrays the man himself as an pious martyr acting in service of a naively innocent Richard Nixon.  In one of the more laughable parts of the story, it’s inferred that John Ehrlichman learned of the Watergate break-in while watching the evening news.  Indeed, the entire question of wrongdoing and guilt is effectively marginalized through the omnipresent argument that Richard Nixon’s coterie of henchmen acted under the Nietzschean principal that “what is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.”  With respect to this particular version of the Watgergate story, it’s basically unclear as to whether the “love” that spurred Nixon and co. to action was an unfettered and dogmatic love of country or a just good old-fashioned lust for power, influence and control.

As soon as I saw the cover, I recalled leafing through this silliness at my parents’ church in the late 70s. At the time, I was reading Kurt Vonnegut’s then new Jailbird and if you know what that’s about, you’ll laugh at the thought of picking up Chuck Colson: Born Again at the same time.

In 2008, George Bush gave this asshole the Presidential Citizens Medal.
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Kurt Vonnegut: The bombing of Dresden and the creation of ‘Slaughterhouse 5’

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It took Kurt Vonnegut more than twenty years to turn his experience of surviving the allied bombing of Dresden during World War II, into his novel Slaughterhouse Five. In this short interview with James Naughtie, Vonnegut recalls the horror of Dresden and how it shaped his vision of the world and led to the creation of his most famous work.

“A writer is lucky to be able to treat his or her neuroses everyday. We’re here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is. And teh Arts are one way to help people get through this thing. the function of any work of Art, successful work of Art is to say to a certain segment of the population, ‘You are not alone. Others feel as you do.’ We must have kids now, you know, saying the world is crazy - and indeed, it is.”

Recorded for the BBC’s This Week series in 2005, to mark the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Creative Writing 101 with Kurt Vonnegut


 

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Classic Covers: Fabulous dust jacket facsimiles to novels by Vonnegut, Woolf, Kerouac and more

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Over at Facsimile Dust Jackets you can find (and purchase) an incredible selection of scans of dust jackets from classic novels by Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K Dick, Doris Lessing, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Christopher Isherwood, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller, Agatha Christie, Aleister Crowley, Dennis Wheatley, Robert Bloch, Len Deighton and many, many more. Have a look for yourself here.
 
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More fab facsimile dust jackets, after the jump…
 

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Creative Writing 101 with Kurt Vonnegut
05.03.2011
05:31 pm

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Short, wry lecture by Kurt Vonnegut on the “simple shapes of stories.”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Kurt Vonnegut: Christianity vs. Socialism
04.04.2011
10:39 am

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Tags:
Karl Marx
Socialism
Christianity
Kurt Vonnegut

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The great Kurt Vonnegut compares and contrasts Christianity with Socialism in this pointed excerpt from the audio book of his A Man Without A Country collection of non-fiction essays.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Virtually Kurt Vonnegut
02.09.2011
02:07 pm

Topics:
Heroes

Tags:
Literature
Kurt Vonnegut
Radio
Second Life

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I’ve been re-reading Kurt Vonnegut recently, which has been a blast, and led me back to this peach of an interview Mr. Vonnegut gave shortly before his death. Listening to it now only makes the great man all the more missed.

In August 2006, the national, weekly public radio program, The Infinite Mind, made broadcast history as it aired a four-part special taped inside the 3-D virtual on-line community Second Life. Among those interviewed in front of a live, virtual audience was author Kurt Vonnegut. The 40-minute conversation with Vonnegut was the author’s last face-to-face, sit-down interview. The host was The Infinite Mind‘s John Hockenberry, who was with Vonnegut in the studio where the program was created. This is a machinima video of Vonnegut’s interview, taped at the 16-acre virtual broadcast center in Second Life built by Lichtenstein Creative Media, which produces The Infinite Mind.

 
Previously on DM

Portrait of the Artist as Young Man: Unpublished Kurt Vonnegut Short Stories


 

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Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Unpublished Kurt Vonnegut short stories surface
01.28.2011
01:16 pm

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Books
Heroes
Literature

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Kurt Vonnegut

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While Mortals Sleep is the newest anthology of the late Kurt Vonnegut’s unpublished short fiction. Think of it as the eagerly-awaited third volume of his worthwhile ephemera, sitting alongside of 2008’s Armageddon in Retrospect and 2009’s Look at the Birdie. The new book collects work from the great author and satirist’s youth that were never published and material either rejected by magazines or else never submitted in the first place.

Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly had to say:

The 16 previously unpublished short stories of this collection, taken from the beginning of Vonnegut’s career, show a young author already grappling with themes and ideas that would define his work for decades to come. “Girl Pool” features typist Amy Lou Little, employee of the Kafkaesque Montezuma Forge and Foundry Company, who is tasked with transcribing a plea for help she receives on her Dictaphone from an escaped, dying murderer hiding somewhere in the works of the company’s cavernous factory. The tale reveals Vonnegut investigating one of his recurring themes: the isolation brought by technology and the necessity for basic humanity in the workplace. The title story melds a sentimental meditation on the true meaning of Christmas with elements of the mystery genre as a hard-nosed reporter stalks the story of stolen nativity scene characters. While these early stories show an author still testing the boundaries of his craft and obsessions, Vonnegut’s acute moral sense and knack for compelling prose are very much on display. In the foreword, Dave Eggers calls Vonnegut “a hippie Mark Twain,” which perfectly captures an essential truth about this esteemed author.

Below, Vonnegut “grades” his own novels, with Charlie Rose.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut
12.29.2010
09:29 am

Topics:
Books
Heroes
History
Literature

Tags:
Kurt Vonnegut

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For the past few days, I’ve been reading Lorre Rackstraw’s fascinating book, Love as Always, Kurt: Vonnegut as I Knew Him. Rackstraw’s lovely, intimate look at the great American novelist, humorist and moralist is chock full of letters from Vonnegut which sparkle with wit, advice on the craft of writing (they met when Rackstraw was a student of Vonnegut’s at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1965) and Vonnegut’s bittersweet, world-weary views on the human race. Although I’m loving the book, it makes me incredibly sad that we no longer have his voice with us today. I can only imagine what Vonnegut would be making of the likes of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and the know-nothing Tea party-types.

Above a delightful letter posted at the terrific Letters of Note blog.

June, 1998: Kurt Vonnegut writes a light-hearted letter to Avatar Prabhu - pseudonym of the author Richard Crasta - in response to Crasta’s controversial novel, The Revised Kama Sutra, being dedicated to the Slaughterhouse Five novelist. Vonnegut closes the missive by amusingly taking a swipe at Salman Rushdie who, whilst in hiding years previous, had written a less-than-glowing review of Vonnegut’s 1990 novel, Hocus Pocus.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Kurt Vonnegut: How to get a job like mine
08.07.2010
12:55 pm

Topics:
Heroes
Literature
Thinkers

Tags:
Kurt Vonnegut

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In the 1970s, it seemed as if most literate, well-informed Americans who read books could agree that Kurt Vonnegut was probably the most important American author since Mark Twain. Vonnegut, when you think about it, was really the last author who nearly everybody who read books, read. You could gauge his popularity when I was a kid by looking at all the copies of his novels on offer at garage sales. Jethro Tull, Allman Brothers and Cheech and Chong albums along with dog-eared copies of Jaws, The Godfather, The Exorcist and one, if not several, Vonnegut paperbacks were jumble sale staples of the late 1970s. Despite the fact that Kurt Vonnegut himself seems to think that writers were over the hill at the age 55, this never seemed the case to me where his writing was concerned and I was always excited to sit down with a new book from him. Watching this video I started to wonder who would replace Vonnegut as he himself took over from Mark Twain to a great extent. No one I can see on the horizon, I’m afraid.

Vonnegut is seen here giving a speech in 2002 at Albion College, where he received an honorary doctorate. The lecture’s title is How to Get Job Like Mine.
 

 
Click through to YouTube for the rest of the speech.

Bonus: Fox News did an entirely disrespectful obit of Vonnegut the day after he died. Something tells me the author would have found this screamingly funny.

Via Fishbowl LA

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment