I became a so-called science fiction writer when someone decreed that I was a science fiction writer. I did not want to be classified as one, so I wondered in what way I’d offended that I would not get credit for being a serious writer. I decided that it was because I wrote about technology, and most fine American writers know nothing about technology. I got classified as a science fiction writer simply because I wrote about Schenectady, New York. My first book, Player Piano, was about Schenectady. There are huge factories in Schenectady and nothing else. I and my associates were engineers, physicists, chemists, and mathematicians. And when I wrote about the General Electric Company and Schenectady, it seemed a fantasy of the future to critics who had never seen the place.

Kurt Vonnegut
A Man Without a Country

experience becoming

March 29, 2020

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

many marvellous moments

August 3, 2019

There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvellous moments seen all at one time.

Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five

lying…

October 25, 2016

books-and-little-people

Novel writing doesn’t breed serenity. It is lying, you know, and the novelist has to spend a lot of time during the course of his writing worrying about whether he is going to get away with his lies. If he fails to, his novel isn’t going to work.

Kurt Vonnegut to Charles Reilly
College Literature 1980

Hurt your parents…

June 3, 2015

implode

“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

Kurt Vonnegut
A Man Without a Country

How we live…?

December 6, 2014

Loveis

No matter what age any of us is now, we are going to be bored and lonely during what remains of our lives. We are so lonely because we don’t have enough friends and relatives. Human beings are supposed to live in stable, like-minded, extended families of fifty people or more.

Your class spokesperson mourned the collapse of the institution of marriage in this country. Marriage is collapsing because our families are too small. A man cannot be a whole society to a woman, and a woman cannot be a whole society to a man. We try, but it is scarcely surprising that so many of us go to pieces. So I recommend that everybody here join all sorts of organizations, no matter how ridiculous, simply to get more people in his or her life. It does not matter much if all the other members are morons. Quantities of relatives of any sort are what we need.

Kurt Vonnegut

Fuh-kar-wee

March 22, 2009

“After World War II, I set out to become an anthropologist — and in fact earned an M.A. in that field from the University of Chicago. That was a big mistake. I couldn’t stand primitive people. They were so stupid! But I still have a favorite Native American tribe, the Fuh-kar-wee, who actually exist only in a joke my brother, Bernie, told me.

The joke: In the late 19th century, supposedly, there was this tribe of Indians, see, who had become nomadic. They were forced off their ancestral lands by pioneers, peace treaties and the United States Cavalry.

OK?

So an agent from the Bureau of Indian Affairs was sent to interview them at one of their temporary encampments, to learn who and what they are — or to be more exact — who and what they used to be. He asked the name of the tribe. They said, “We are the Fuh-kar-wee.”

The agent wanted to know if the name had a special meaning. They said it had in fact been adopted only recently and was based on what their chief, who had just died, wailed in despair at sunset on every day of their aimless wandering:

“Where the Fuh-kar-wee?”

Kurt Vonnegut