NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
Newsweek/The Daily Beast The Huffington Post Kansas City Star Time Out New York Kirkus Reviews
This extraordinary collection of personal correspondence has all the hallmarks of Kurt Vonneguts 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 Vonneguts 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, Gnter Grass, and Bernard Malamud.
Vonneguts unmediated observations on science, art, and commerce prove to be just as inventive as any found in his novelsfrom 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 Updikes contract to Simon and Schuster, and receive Joan Didions 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 fadof a slightly higher order than the hula hoop.
To his daughter Nanny: Most letters from a parent contain a parents 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 [Vonneguts] 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 [Vonneguts] very best.Newsday
These letters display all the hallmarks of Vonneguts fictionsmart, hilarious and heartbreaking.The New York Times Book Review