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Best known as one of our most astonishing and enduring contemporary novelists, Kurt Vonnegut was also a celebrated commencement address giver. He himself never graduated college, so his words to any class of graduating seniors always carried the delight, and gentle irony, of someone savoring an achievement he himself had not had occasion to savor on his own behalf.
Selected and introduced by fellow novelist and friend Dan Wakefield, the speeches in If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? capture this side of Kurt Vonnegut for the first time in book form. There are nine speeches, seven given at colleges, one to the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, one on the occasion of Vonnegut receiving the Carl Sandburg Award. In each of these talks Vonnegut takes pains to find the few things worth saying and a conversational voice to say them in that isn’t heavy-handed or pretentious or glib, but funny and serious and joyful even if sometimes without seeming so.
|Publisher:||Seven Stories Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.75(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Born in 1922 in Indianapolis, Indiana, KURT VONNEGUT was one of the few grandmasters of modern American letters. Called by the New York Times “the counterculture’s novelist,” his works guided a generation through the miasma of war and greed that was life in the U.S. in second half of the 20th century. After a stints as a soldier, anthropology PhD candidate, technical writer for General Electric, and salesman at a Saab dealership, Vonnegut rose to prominence with the publication ofCat’s Cradle in 1963. Several modern classics, including Slaughterhouse-Five, soon followed. Never quite embraced by the stodgier arbiters of literary taste, Vonnegut was nonetheless beloved by millions of readers throughout the world. “Given who and what I am,” he once said, “it has been presumptuous of me to write so well.” Kurt Vonnegut died in New York in 2007.
A longtime friend of Kurt Vonnegut’s, Dan Wakefield edited and introduced Kurt Vonnegut: Letters. Wakefield is the author of the memoirs New York in the Fifties and Returning: A Spiritual Journey. His novel, Going All the Way was made into a movie starring Ben Affleck. Wakefield also created the NBC prime time series, James at Fifteen. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Date of Birth:November 11, 1922
Date of Death:April 11, 2007
Place of Birth:Indianapolis, Indiana
Place of Death:New York, New York
Education:Cornell University, 1940-42; Carnegie-Mellon University, 1943; University of Chicago, 1945-47; M.A., 1971
Read an Excerpt
“One sort of optional thing you might do is to realize there are six seasons instead of four. The poetry of four seasons is all wrong for this part of the planet, and this may explain why we are so depressed so much of the time. I mean, Spring doesn’t feel like Spring a lot of the time, and November is all wrong for Fall and so on. Here is the truth about the seasons: Spring is May and June! What could be springier than May and June? Summer is July and August. Really hot, right? Autumn is September and October. See the pumpkins? Smell those burning leaves. Next comes the season called “Locking.” That is when Nature shuts everything down. November and December aren’t Winter. They’re Locking. Next comes Winter, January and February. Boy! Are they ever cold! What comes next? Not Spring. Unlocking comes next. What else could April be?
“One more optional piece of advice: If you ever have to give a speech, start with a joke, if you know one. For years I have been looking for the best joke in the world. I think I know what it is. I will tell it to you, but have to help me. You have to say, “No,” when I hold my hand like this. All right? Don’t let me down.
“Do you know why cream is so much more expensive than milk?
"It is because the cows hate to squat on those little bottles.”
Table of Contents
EDITOR'S NOTE TO THE SECOND EDITION,
1. HOW TO MAKE MONEY AND FIND LOVE!,
2. ADVICE TO GRADUATING WOMEN (THAT ALL MEN SHOULD KNOW!),
3. HOW TO HAVE SOMETHING MOST BILLIONAIRES DON'T,
4. HOW MUSIC CURES OUR ILLS (AND THERE ARE LOTS OF THEM),
5. WHAT THE "GHOST DANCE" OF THE NATIVE AMERICANS AND THE FRENCH PAINTERS WHO LED THE CUBIST MOVEMENT HAVE IN COMMON,
6. HOW I LEARNED FROM A TEACHER WHAT ARTISTS DO,
7. DON'T FORGET WHERE YOU COME FROM,
8. WHY SOCIAL JUSTICE DOES MORE THAN ART TO NOURISH THE AMERICAN DREAM,
9. HOW TO BE A WISE GUY OR A WISE GIRL,
10. WHY YOU CAN'T STOP ME FROM SPEAKING ILL OF THOMAS JEFFERSON,
11. DON'T DESPAIR IF YOU NEVER WENT TO COLLEGE,
12. HOW I GOT MY FIRST JOB AS A REPORTER AND LEARNED TO WRITE IN A SIMPLE, DIRECT WAY, WHILE NOT GETTING A DEGREE IN ANTHROPOLOGY,
13. SOMEBODY SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME NOT TO JOIN A FRATERNITY,
14. THE MOST CENSORED WRITER OF HIS TIME DEFENDS THE FIRST AMENDMENT,
15. MY DOG LIKES EVERYBODY, BUT WAS NOT INSPIRED BY ANCIENT GREECE AND ROME OR THE RENAISSANCE,
UNSTUCK IN TIME — QUOTES TO PONDER,