Kurt Vonnegut Letters

Kurt Vonnegut

Book - 2012

A compilation of personal correspondence written over a sixty-year period offers insight into the iconic American author's literary personality, his experiences as a German POW, his struggles with fame, and the inspirations for his famous books.

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BIOGRAPHY/Vonnegut, Kurt
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New York : Delacorte Press c2012.
1st ed
Item Description
Includes index.
Physical Description
xxvi, 436 p. : ill. ; 25 cm
Main Author
Kurt Vonnegut (-)
Other Authors
Dan Wakefield (-)
  • The forties
  • The fifties
  • The sixties
  • The seventies
  • The eighties
  • The nineties
  • The two thousands.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Even with the abundance of novels, stories, and essays Vonnegut completed during his lifetime, it will surprise few admirers that he was an equally prolific letter writer. Compiled for the first time, by his close friend and fellow author Wakefield, Vonnegut's correspondence spans 60 years, from a 1945 letter he wrote to his parents upon being released from a German POW camp to a final declining, at 84, shortly before his death, of an invitation to deliver a lecture at Cornell, his alma mater. In between, bearing all the canny observations and sardonic witticisms that distinguished his most famous works, are dozens of letters to relatives, friends, and sometimes foes, many revealing fascinating insights into Vonnegut's private thoughts and inspirations. Highlights include reflective letters on his sudden rise to fame, supportive notes to such colleagues as Bernard Malamud and Norman Mailer, and a scathing missive to a school board threatening censorship. Arranged in chronological order and including Wakefield's insightful background information on Vonnegut's life, this is a volume fans will treasure. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Vonnegut's life as told by his letters; a smart idea for a writer with such a distinctive voice. Edited by novelist/screenwriter Dan Wakefield, Vonnegut's friend for over 40 years, the pieces here range from Vonnegut's letter home after being freed from a German POW camp to protests directed at school boards that had banned his books to exchanges with other writers like Norman Mailer and Günter Grass. Five years after his death, Vonnegut remains in the public eye; Slaughter-House Five still sells more than 100,000 copies a year. [Page 52]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Vonnegut's early antiestablishment novels, notably Slaughterhouse Five, were embraced by counterculture youth of the 1960s and '70s as they raged against the debacle of Vietnam and the deceit that was Watergate. Ever popular, Vonnegut's novels, short stories, and essays are still in print and on college reading lists. This selection of his letters to family, friends, editors and publishers, critics, and fellow authors (primarily Gail Godwin, Vance Bourjaily, Nelson Algren) spans the 1940s, when Vonnegut was in his twenties, to his death in 2007. The letters describe his survival, while a POW, of the Allied bombing of Dresden, as well as the fog and fiasco of war. They also reveal a dogged pursuit of his chosen profession and a desperate need for financial security and recognition that rendered him spiteful, self-aggrandizing, sarcastic, sensitive to criticism, and intermittently estranged from family and friends. Vonnegut's longtime friend, novelist Wakefield (Going All the Way) prefaces the letters with interesting contextual biographical and literary information. VERDICT For Vonnegut readers and libraries, this is an essential complement to Charles Shields's recent biography, And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut; A Life.—Lonnie Weatherby, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal [Page 78]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

This miraculous volume of selected letters provides a moving and revelatory portrait of the famed author of Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle. Organized by decade from the 1940s to the 2000s (Vonnegut died in 2007), the letters chart Vonnegut's life from his service in WWII to his first steps in the world of publishing, his emergence into literary fame, and beyond. The grain of Vonnegut's charming and unmistakable voice is palpable, along with his sense of humor that produces unexpected poetry on almost every page. The private and public Vonneguts both shine, as in his magical letters to his many children, or his painful reflections on divorce, war, and growing older. Elsewhere Vonnegut reveals aspects of his writing process and his philosophy of fiction, and marks his ongoing opposition to violence and censorship. Of particular literary interest are his letters to such authors as Norman Mailer, Anne Sexton, Bernard Malamud, and Jose Donoso. Edited by writer and longtime friend Wakefield, the volume begins with a warm retrospective essay, and each section is prefaced with overviews of each decade of Vonnegut's life, as well as helpful notes to explain his references. Fans will find the collection as spellbinding as Vonnegut's best novels, and casual readers will discover letters as splendid in their own way as those of Keats. Agent: The Farber Agency. (Oct.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A compilation of personal correspondence written over a sixty-year period offers insight into the iconic American author's literary personality, his experiences as a German POW, his struggles with fame, and the inspirations for his famous books.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Including previously unpublished entries, a compilation of personal correspondences written over a 60-year period offers insight into the iconic American author's literary personality, his experiences as a German POW, his struggles with fame and the inspirations for his famous books. 35,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BYNewsweek/The Daily Beast • The Huffington Post • Kansas City Star • Time Out New York • Kirkus ReviewsThis 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 masterpieceSlaughterhouse-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, Günter 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 quotable 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 unique point of view that made him the true cultural heir to Mark Twain, these letters comprise the autobiography Kurt Vonnegut never wrote.Praise for Kurt Vonnegut: Letters“Splendidly assembled . . . familiar, funny, cranky . . . chronicling [Vonnegut’s] life in real time.”—Kurt Andersen,The New York Times Book Review“[This collection is] by turns hilarious, heartbreaking and mundane. . . . Vonnegut himself is a near-perfect example of the same flawed, wonderful humanity that he loved and despaired over his entire life.”—NPR“Congenial, whimsical and often insightful missives . . . one of [Vonnegut’s] very best.”—Newsday“These letters display all the hallmarks of Vonnegut’s fiction—smart, hilarious and heartbreaking.”—The New York Times Book Review