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Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut speaking in 2004
Born Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
November 11, 1922(1922-11-11)
Indianapolis, Indiana,
United States
Died April 11, 2007 (aged 84)
New York City, New York,
United States
Occupation Novelist, essayist
Nationality German American
Period 1949–2005
Genres Literary fiction
Science fiction
Satire
Black comedy
Official website

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (pronounced /ˈvɒnɨɡət/; November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American novelist who wrote works blending satire, black comedy, and science fiction, such as Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Cat's Cradle (1963), and Breakfast of Champions (1973). He was known for his humanist beliefs as well as being honorary president of the American Humanist Association. He is widely considered one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century.[2]

Contents

Life

Early years

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, to fifth-generation German-American parents Kurt Vonnegut, Sr., and Edith Lieber. Both his father and grandfather attended MIT and were architects in the Indianapolis firm Vonnegut & Bohn; his great-grandfather was the founder of the Vonnegut Hardware Company, an Indianapolis institution.[3] Vonnegut graduated from Shortridge High School in Indianapolis in May 1940, and was accepted to attend Cornell University beginning that fall. At Cornell, he served as assistant managing editor and associate editor for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun, and majored in chemistry.[4] While attending Cornell, he was a member of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity, following in the footsteps of his father. While at Cornell, Vonnegut enlisted in the U.S. Army.[5] The army transferred him to the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the University of Tennessee to study mechanical engineering.[2] On May 14, 1944, Mothers' Day, his mother committed suicide by sleeping pill overdose.[6]

World War II

Kurt Vonnegut's experience as a soldier and prisoner of war had a profound influence on his later work. As a private with the 106th Infantry Division, Vonnegut, along with five other battalion scouts, wandered behind enemy lines for several days during the Rhineland Campaign. They were cut off from their battalion and captured by Wehrmacht troops on December 14, 1944.[7] Imprisoned in Dresden, Vonnegut was chosen as a leader of the POWs because he spoke some German. After telling the German guards "...just what I was going to do to them when the Russians came..." he was beaten and had his position as leader taken away.[8] While a prisoner, he witnessed the fire bombing of Dresden in February 1945 which destroyed most of the city.

Vonnegut was one of a group of American prisoners of war to survive the attack in an underground slaughterhouse meat locker used by the Germans as an ad hoc detention facility. The Germans called the building Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five) which the Allied POWs adopted as the name for their prison. Vonnegut said the aftermath of the attack was "utter destruction" and "carnage unfathomable." This experience was the inspiration for his famous novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, and is a central theme in at least six of his other books. In Slaughterhouse-Five he recalls that the remains of the city resembled the surface of the moon, and that the Germans put the surviving POWs to work, breaking into basements and bomb shelters to gather bodies for mass burial, while German civilians cursed and threw rocks at them.[8] Vonnegut eventually remarked, "There were too many corpses to bury. So instead the Germans sent in troops with flamethrowers. All these civilians' remains were burned to ashes."[9]

Vonnegut was repatriated by Red Army troops in May 1945 at the Saxony-Czechoslovakian border.[8] Upon returning to America, he was awarded a Purple Heart for what he called a "ludicrously negligible wound,"[10][11] later writing in Timequake that he was given the decoration after suffering a case of "frostbite".[12]

Post-war career

After the war, Vonnegut attended the University of Chicago as a graduate student in anthropology and also worked at the City News Bureau of Chicago. Vonnegut admitted that he was a poor anthropology student, with one professor remarking that some of the students were going to be professional anthropologists and he was not one of them.[citation needed] According to Vonnegut in Bagombo Snuff Box, the university rejected his first thesis on the necessity of accounting for the similarities between Cubist painters and the leaders of late 19th Century Native American uprisings, saying it was "unprofessional." He left Chicago to work in Schenectady, New York, in public relations for General Electric, where his brother Bernard worked in the research department. While in Schenectady, Vonnegut lived in the tiny Hamlet of Alplaus, located within the Town of Glenville, just across the Mohawk River from the city of Schenectady. Vonnegut rented an upstairs apartment located across the street from the Alplaus Volunteer Fire Department, where he was an active Volunteer Fire-Fighter for a few years. The apartment where Vonnegut lived for a brief time still to this day has a desk which he used to write many of his short stories, and to which he carved his name into the under-part of the desk. It is in the tiny Hamlet of Alplaus, along the Alplaus Creek, where Vonnegut is rumored to have began writing his master piece, Slaughterhouse Five. The University of Chicago later accepted his novel Cat's Cradle as his thesis, citing its anthropological content, and awarded him the M.A. degree in 1971.[13][14]

In the mid 1950s, Vonnegut worked very briefly for Sports Illustrated magazine, where he was assigned to write a piece on a racehorse that had jumped a fence and attempted to run away. After staring at the blank piece of paper on his typewriter all morning, he typed, "The horse jumped over the fucking fence," and left.[15] On the verge of abandoning writing, Vonnegut was offered a teaching job at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. While he was there, Cat's Cradle became a best-seller, and he began Slaughterhouse-Five, now considered one of the best American novels of the 20th century, appearing on the 100 best lists of Time magazine[16] and the Modern Library.[17]

Early in his adult life he moved to Barnstable, Massachusetts, a town on Cape Cod,[18] where he managed the first Saab dealership established in the U.S.[19]

Personal life

The author's name appears in print as "Kurt Vonnegut, Jr." throughout the first half of his published writing career; beginning with the 1976 publication of Slapstick, he dropped the "Jr." and was simply billed as Kurt Vonnegut. His older brother—Bernard Vonnegut—was an atmospheric scientist at the University at Albany, SUNY, who discovered that silver iodide could be used for cloud seeding, the process of artificially stimulating precipitation.

After returning from World War II, Kurt Vonnegut married his childhood sweetheart, Jane Marie Cox, writing about their courtship in several of his short stories. The couple separated in 1970. He did not divorce Cox until 1979, but from 1970 Vonnegut lived with the woman who would later become his second wife, photographer Jill Krementz.[2] Krementz and Vonnegut were married after the divorce from Cox was finalized.

He raised seven children: three from his first marriage; his sister Alice's three children, adopted by Vonnegut after her death from cancer; and a seventh, Lily, adopted with Krementz. His only biological son, Mark Vonnegut, a pediatrician, wrote the book The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity, about his experiences in the late 1960s and his major psychotic breakdown and recovery. Mark was named after Mark Twain, whom Vonnegut considered an American saint.[20]

His daughter Edith ("Edie"), an artist, was named after Kurt Vonnegut's mother, Edith Lieber. During her youth, she was an acquaintance of Cape Cod murderer Tony Costa. She has had her work published in a book titled Domestic Goddesses and was once married to Geraldo Rivera. His youngest daughter, Nanette ("Nanny"), was named after Nanette Schnull, Vonnegut's paternal grandmother. She is married to realist painter Scott Prior and is the subject of several of his paintings, notably "Nanny and Rose".

Of Vonnegut's four adopted children, three are his nephews: James, Steven, and Kurt Adams; the fourth is Lily, a girl he adopted as an infant in 1982. James, Steven, and Kurt were adopted after a traumatic week in 1958, in which their father James Carmalt Adams was killed on September 15 in the Newark Bay rail crash when his commuter train went off the open Newark Bay bridge in New Jersey, and their mother—Kurt's sister Alice—died of cancer. In Slapstick, Vonnegut recounts that Alice's husband died two days before Alice herself, and her family tried to hide the knowledge from her, but she found out when an ambulatory patient gave her a copy of the New York Daily News a day before she herself died. The fourth and youngest of the boys, Peter Nice, went to live with a first cousin of their father in Birmingham, Alabama as an infant. Lily is a singer and actress.

On November 11, 1999, the asteroid 25399 Vonnegut was named in Vonnegut's honor.[21]

On January 31, 2001, a fire destroyed the top story of his home. Vonnegut suffered smoke inhalation and was hospitalized in critical condition for four days. He survived, but his personal archives were destroyed. After leaving the hospital, he recuperated in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Vonnegut smoked unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes, a habit he referred to as a "classy way to commit suicide".[22]

Vonnegut died on April 11, 2007, in Manhattan, following a fall at his Manhattan home several weeks earlier which resulted in irreversible brain injuries.[2][23][24]

Writing career

Vonnegut's first short story, "Report on the Barnhouse Effect"[25] appeared in the February 11, 1950 edition of Collier's (it has since been reprinted in his short story collection, Welcome to the Monkey House). His first novel was the dystopian novel Player Piano (1952), in which human workers have been largely replaced by machines. He continued to write short stories before his second novel, The Sirens of Titan, was published in 1959.[26] Through the 1960s, the form of his work changed, from the relatively orthodox structure of Cat's Cradle (which in 1971 earned him a Master's Degree) to the acclaimed, semi-autobiographical Slaughterhouse-Five, given a more experimental structure by using time travel as a plot device.

These structural experiments were continued in Breakfast of Champions (1973), which included many rough illustrations, lengthy non-sequiturs and an appearance by the author himself, as a deus ex machina.

"This is a very bad book you're writing," I said to myself.
"I know," I said.
"You're afraid you'll kill yourself the way your mother did," I said.
"I know," I said.

Deadeye Dick, although mostly set in the mid-twentieth century, foreshadows the turbulent times of contemporary America; it ends prophetically with the lines "You want to know something? We are still in the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages — they haven't ended yet." The novel explores themes of social isolation and alienation that are particularly relevant in the postmodern world. Society is seen as openly hostile or indifferent at best, and popular culture as superficial and excessively materialistic.

Vonnegut attempted suicide in 1984 and later wrote about this in several essays.[27]

Breakfast of Champions became one of his best-selling novels. It includes, in addition to the author himself, several of Vonnegut's recurring characters. One of them, science fiction author Kilgore Trout, plays a major role and interacts with the author's character.

In 1974, Venus on the Half-Shell, a book by Philip José Farmer in a style similar to that of Vonnegut and attributed to Kilgore Trout, was published. This caused some confusion among readers, as for some time many assumed that Vonnegut wrote it; when the truth of its authorship came out, Vonnegut was reported as being "not amused". In an issue of the semi-prozine The Alien Critic/Science Fiction Review, published by Richard E. Geis, Farmer claimed to have received an angry, obscenity-laden telephone call from Vonnegut about it.

In addition to recurring characters, there are also recurring themes and ideas. One of them is ice-nine (a central wampeter in his novel Cat's Cradle).

Although many of his novels involved science fiction themes, they were widely read and reviewed outside the field, not least due to their anti-authoritarianism. For example, his seminal short story Harrison Bergeron graphically demonstrates how an ethos like egalitarianism, when combined with too much authority, engenders horrific repression.

In much of his work, Vonnegut's own voice is apparent, often filtered through the character of science fiction author Kilgore Trout (whose name is based on that of real-life science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon), characterized by wild leaps of imagination and a deep cynicism, tempered by humanism. In the foreword to Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut wrote that as a child, he saw men with locomotor ataxia, and it struck him that these men walked like broken machines; it followed that healthy people were working machines, suggesting that humans are helpless prisoners of determinism. Vonnegut also explored this theme in Slaughterhouse-Five, in which protagonist Billy Pilgrim "has come unstuck in time" and has so little control over his own life that he cannot even predict which part of it he will be living through from minute to minute. Vonnegut's well-known phrase "So it goes", used ironically in reference to death, also originated in Slaughterhouse-Five and became a slogan for anti-Vietnam War protestors in the 1960s. "Its combination of simplicity, irony, and rue is very much in the Vonnegut vein."[23]

With the publication of his novel Timequake in 1997, Vonnegut announced his retirement from writing fiction. He continued to write for the magazine In These Times, where he was a senior editor,[28] until his death in 2007, focusing on subjects ranging from contemporary U. S. politics to simple observational pieces on topics such as a trip to the post office. In 2005, many of his essays were collected in a new bestselling book titled A Man Without a Country, which he insisted would be his last contribution to letters.[29]

An August 2006 article reported:

He has stalled finishing his highly anticipated novel If God Were Alive Today — or so he claims. "I've given up on it... It won't happen... The Army kept me on because I could type, so I was typing other people's discharges and stuff. And my feeling was, 'Please, I've done everything I was supposed to do. Can I go home now?' That's what I feel right now. I've written books. Lots of them. Please, I've done everything I'm supposed to do. Can I go home now?"[9]

The April 2008 issue of Playboy featured the first published excerpt from Armageddon in Retrospect, the first posthumous collection of Vonnegut's work. The book itself was published in the same month. It included never before published short stories by the writer and a letter that was written to his family during WWII when Vonnegut was captured as a prisoner of war. The book also contains drawings that Vonnegut himself drew and a speech he wrote shortly before his death. The introduction of the book was written by his son, Mark Vonnegut.

Vonnegut also taught at Harvard University, where he was a lecturer in English, and the City College of New York, where he was a Distinguished Professor.[30]

Design career

Vonnegut's work as a graphic artist began with his illustrations for Slaughterhouse-Five and developed with Breakfast of Champions, which included numerous felt-tip pen illustrations. Later in his career, he became more interested in artwork, particularly silk-screen prints, which he pursued in collaboration with Joe Petro III.

In 2004, Vonnegut participated in the project The Greatest Album Covers That Never Were, for which he created an album cover for Phish called Hook, Line and Sinker, which has been included in a traveling exhibition for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Politics

Vonnegut was deeply influenced by early Socialist labor leaders, especially Indiana natives Powers Hapgood and Eugene V. Debs, and he frequently quotes them in his work. He named characters after both Debs (Eugene Debs Hartke in Hocus Pocus and Eugene Debs Metzger in Deadeye Dick) and Russian Communist leader Leon Trotsky (Leon Trotsky Trout in Galápagos). He was a lifetime member of the American Civil Liberties Union and was featured in a print advertisement for them.

Vonnegut frequently addressed moral and political issues but rarely dealt with specific political figures until after his retirement from fiction. (Although the downfall of Walter Starbuck, a minor Nixon administration bureaucrat who is the narrator and main character in Jailbird (1979), would not have occurred but for the Watergate scandal, the focus is not on the administration.) His collection God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian referenced controversial assisted suicide proponent Jack Kevorkian.

With his columns for In These Times, he began a blistering attack on the Bush administration and the Iraq war. "By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East?" he wrote. "Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas." In These Times quoted him as saying "The only difference between Hitler and Bush is that Hitler was elected."[31][32] In a 2003 interview Vonnegut said, "I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka 'Christians,' and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities,or 'PPs.'"[33] When asked how he was doing at the start of a 2003 interview, he replied: "I'm mad about being old and I'm mad about being American. Apart from that, OK."[34]

In A Man Without a Country, he wrote that "George W. Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography." He did not regard the 2004 election with much optimism; speaking of Bush and John Kerry, he said that "no matter which one wins, we will have a Skull and Bones President at a time when entire vertebrate species, because of how we have poisoned the topsoil, the waters and the atmosphere, are becoming, hey presto, nothing but skulls and bones."[35]

In 2005, Vonnegut was interviewed by David Nason for The Australian. During the course of the interview Vonnegut was asked his opinion of modern terrorists, to which he replied, "I regard them as very brave people." When pressed further Vonnegut also said that "They [suicide bombers] are dying for their own self-respect. It's a terrible thing to deprive someone of their self-respect. It's [like] your culture is nothing, your Race is nothing, you're nothing ... It is sweet and noble—sweet and honourable I guess it is—to die for what you believe in." (This last statement is a reference to the line "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" ["it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country"] from Horace's Odes, or possibly to Wilfred Owen's ironic use of the line in his Dulce Et Decorum Est.) Nason took offense at Vonnegut's comments and characterized him as an old man who "doesn't want to live any more ... and because he can't find anything worthwhile to keep him alive, he finds defending terrorists somehow amusing." Vonnegut's son, Mark, responded to the article by writing an editorial to the Boston Globe in which he explained the reasons behind his father's "provocative posturing" and stated that "If these commentators can so badly misunderstand and underestimate an utterly unguarded English-speaking 83-year-old man with an extensive public record of saying exactly what he thinks, maybe we should worry about how well they understand an enemy they can't figure out what to call."[36]

A 2006 interview with Rolling Stone stated, " ... it's not surprising that he disdains everything about the Iraq War. The very notion that more than 2,500 U.S. soldiers have been killed in what he sees as an unnecessary conflict makes him groan. 'Honestly, I wish Nixon were president,' Vonnegut laments. 'Bush is so ignorant.' "[9]

Though he was a dissident to the end, Vonnegut held a bleak view on the power of artists to effect change. "During the Vietnam War," he told an interviewer in 2003, "every respectable artist in this country was against the war. It was like a laser beam. We were all aimed in the same direction. The power of this weapon turns out to be that of a custard pie dropped from a stepladder six feet high."[34]

Religion

Vonnegut was descended from a family of German freethinkers, who were skeptical of "conventional religious beliefs."[37] His great-grandfather Clemens Vonnegut had authored a freethought book titled Instruction in Morals, as well as an address for his own funeral in which he denied the existence of God, an afterlife, and Christian doctrines about sin and salvation. Kurt Vonnegut reproduced his great-grandfather's funeral address in his book Palm Sunday, and identified these freethought views as his "ancestral religion," declaring it a mystery as to how it was passed on to him.[38]

Vonnegut described himself variously as a skeptic,[38] freethinker,[39] humanist,[39] Unitarian Universalist,[40] agnostic,[38] and atheist.[41] He disbelieved in the supernatural,[38] considered religious doctrine to be "so much arbitrary, clearly invented balderdash," and believed people were motivated by loneliness to join religions.[42]

Vonnegut considered humanism to be a modern-day form of freethought,[43] and advocated it in various writings, speeches and interviews. His ties to organized humanism included membership as a Humanist Laureate in the Council for Secular Humanism's International Academy of Humanism.[44] In 1992, the American Humanist Association named him the Humanist of the Year. Vonnegut went on to serve as honorary president of the American Humanist Association (AHA), having taken over the position from his late colleague Isaac Asimov, and serving until his own death in 2007.[45] In a letter to AHA members, Vonnegut wrote: "I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without expectations of rewards or punishments after I am dead."[46]

Vonnegut was at one time a member of a Unitarian congregation.[38][47] Palm Sunday reproduces a sermon he delivered to the First Parish Unitarian Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts concerning William Ellery Channing, who was a principal founder of Unitarianism in the United States. In 1986, Vonnegut spoke to a gathering of Unitarian Universalists in Rochester, New York, and the text of his speech is reprinted in his book Fates Worse Than Death. Also reprinted in that book was a "mass" by Vonnegut, which was performed by a Unitarian Universalist choir in Buffalo, New York.[48] Vonnegut identified Unitarianism as the religion that many in his freethinking family turned to when freethought and other German "enthusiasms" became unpopular in the United States during the World Wars.[39] Vonnegut's parents were married by a Unitarian minister, and his son had at one time aspired to become a Unitarian minister.[38]

Vonnegut's views on religion were unconventional and nuanced. While rejecting the divinity of Jesus,[41] he was nevertheless an ardent admirer, and believed that Jesus' Beatitudes informed his own humanist outlook.[49] While he often identified himself as an agnostic or atheist, he also frequently spoke of God.[39] Despite describing freethought, humanism and agnosticism as his "ancestral religion," and despite being a Unitarian, he also spoke of himself as being irreligious.[39] A press release by the American Humanist Association described him as "completely secular."[46]

Self-assessment

In his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Vonnegut qualifies the list by adding that Flannery O'Connor broke all these rules except the first, and that great writers tend to do that.

In Chapter 18 of his book Palm Sunday, "The Sexual Revolution", Vonnegut grades his own works. He states that the grades "do not place me in literary history" and that he is comparing "myself with myself." The grades are as follows:

Vonnegut was a master of satire, but he was humble about satire as a tool we can use to preserve our sanity in an insane world: "I guess it works some. Just telling people, 'You are not alone. There are a lot of others who feel as you do.' We’re a terribly lonesome society."[34]

Appearances

  • Vonnegut played himself in a cameo in 1986's Back to School, in which he is hired by Rodney Dangerfield's Thornton Melon to write a paper on the topic of the novels of Kurt Vonnegut. Recognizing the work as not Melon's own, Professor Turner tells him, "Whoever did write this doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut."
  • Vonnegut also made brief cameos in the film adaptations of his novels Mother Night and Breakfast of Champions. Mother Night was directed by Keith Gordon, who starred as Dangerfield's son in Back to School.
  • Vonnegut appeared as part of the Enron "Why" advertising campaign.
  • He made a guest appearance on the 2002 DVD released by 1 Giant Leap, leading the producers of the film to say, "Probably the most unbelievable result in our whole production was getting Kurt Vonnegut to agree to an interview". In the film, Vonnegut states, "Music is, to me, proof of the existence of God. It is so extraordinarily full of magic, and in tough times of my life I can listen to music and it makes such a difference".
  • Vonnegut narrates and wrote the narrative of two oratorios with composer Dave Soldier recorded by the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, A Soldier's Story based on the execution of Private Eddie Slovik and Ice-9 Ballads, adapted from Cat's Cradle.
  • Vonnegut recorded a number of first-person voice overs for Ken Burns's documentary The Civil War and included one of a young soldier reflecting on a visit with a prostitute.
  • Vonnegut appears briefly in the 2005 dramatic documentary The American Ruling Class playing himself.
  • Vonnegut appears briefly in the 2005 Dutch release of the three part BBC documentary D-Day to Berlin. The allies journey to victory, telling about his memories of the bombing of Dresden
Kurt Vonnegut interviewed live in Second Life for Lichtenstein Creative Media's national, weekly public radio series "The Infinite Mind" in August 2006.
  • In August 2006, Kurt Vonnegut was interviewed on the national, weekly public radio program, The Infinite Mind, from inside the 3-D virtual on-line community Second Life. The program made broadcast history [50] as the first to be taped inside a virtual world, and it 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 as the program was taped. Vonnegut's virtual interview was taped in front of a virtual audience of 100 people from around the world a the 16-acre virtual broadcast center created by producer Bill Lichtenstein and Lichtenstein Creative Media[51] which produces The Infinite Mind. The 38-minute "machinima" video of Vonnegut's last interview is available on You Tube, and as of March 2010 it has had more than 100,000 views.
  • In 2007 Vonnegut is featured in the film Never Down as Robert and appears in several scenes.

Tributes

  • The 2009 Hollywood adaptation of Vonnegut's story "Harrison Bergeron", a film entitled 2081 is dedicated "To Kurt Vonnegut, Jr."
  • At the annual Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library McFadden Memorial Lecture at Butler University in Indianapolis, on April 27, 2007, where Vonnegut was being honored posthumously, his son Mark delivered a speech that the author wrote for the event, and which was reported as the last thing he wrote. It ends with this: "I thank you for your attention, and I'm outta here."[52]
  • Following his death, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central gave Vonnegut a small tribute frame before the closing credits with his own famous phrase on death--"so it goes." There was also a short clip of him being interviewed by Jon Stewart, in which he joked that chlamydia, giraffes and hippopotamuses are evidence of evolution being controlled by a divine power.
  • Filmmaker Michael Moore included Vonnegut in the dedications for his 2007 film Sicko; at the end of the film, the words "Thank You Kurt Vonnegut for Everything" appear on the screen.
  • The satirical newspaper The Onion contained a tribute to Vonnegut soon after he died, with a reference to his work Slaughterhouse-Five stating that he shouldn't be referred to as dead "without checking Dresden for his younger self first."[53]
  • On November 11, 2007, Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver, reintroduced Kurt's Mile High Malt to celebrate the late author's birthday.[54] The beer was originally created by Vonnegut's grandfather, Albert Lieber, of the Indianapolis Brewery, using coffee as the secret ingredient. Kurt's Mile High Malt was first brewed in 1996 thanks to Wynkoop Founder and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a friend of Vonnegut's. At Vonnegut's request, coffee was added to the Mile High Malt, making it a close recreation to his grandfather's original.

In 2005, the Alplaus Vounteer Fire Department, requested Mr. Vonnegut to be the Grand Marshall of 75th Anniversary of its formation and annual July 4 Parade. Due to health reasons, Mr. Vonnegut declined but donated an original silk screen print, commonly referred to as Confetti #61, to the Alplaus Fire Department. The screen print simple stated; "I can't imagine a more stirring symbol of man's humanity to man than a fire engine." Underneath those words, you will find a Maltise Cross, with the word Rosewater at the top of the cross. The term Rosewater comes from his book, "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater." The screen print is still displayed in the fire departments trophy and old photograph case upstairs in the original meeting room, where undoubtly Mr. Vonnegut frequented during his short, but very meaningful status as a Alplaus Volunteer Fire-Fighter. On April 11, 2007, upon hearing that one of their life-members and former Fire-fighters had passed away, the members of the Alplaus Volunteer Fire Department lowered the American Flag to Half Mast, hung the funeral shroud, and rang the Fire Bell that had once been on the 1st fire-engine ever owned and operated by the fire department, in accordance with the traditional 5-5-5 alarm, used to signal and honor fallen brothers. Mr. Vonnegut's name still appears on an old active fire-fighters roster, located next to his screen-print in the department's trophy case.

Bibliography

References

  1. ^ "Douglas Adams Dark Matter Interview". Darkermatter.com. http://www.darkermatter.com/issue1/douglas_adams.php. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d Smith, Dinitia (2007-04-12). "Kurt Vonnegut, Novelist Who Caught the Imagination of His Age, Is Dead at 84". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/12/books/12vonnegut.html. Retrieved 2007-04-12.  In print: Smith, Dinitia, "Kurt Vonnegut, Novelist Who Caught the Imagination of His Age, Is Dead at 84", The New York Times, April 12, 2007, p.1
  3. ^ Kelly, Rin. "'Can I Go Home Now?'". The District Weekly. http://thedistrictweekly.com/print/news/2007/04/18/can-i-go-home-now/. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  4. ^ http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/April07/vonnegut.html Novelist Kurt Vonnegut Dies
  5. ^ "Kurt Vonnegut Biography". Advameg Inc.. http://www.notablebiographies.com/Tu-We/Vonnegut-Kurt.html. 
  6. ^ Reed, Peter (1999). Volume 10, Issue No. 1 of the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida. ISBN 1-85723-124-4. 
  7. ^ NNDB - [check date] (battle of the Bulge started on December 16)Biography of Kurt Vonnegut
  8. ^ a b c Vonnegut, Kurt, JR. Armageddon in Retrospect. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008.
  9. ^ a b c Brinkley, Douglas (2006-08-24). "Vonnegut's Apocalypse". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/11123162/kurt_vonnegut_says_this_is_the_end_of_the_world. Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  10. ^ Sarah Land Prakken: The Reader's Adviser: A Layman's Guide to Literature, R. R. Bowker 1974, ISBN 0-83520781-1, p. 623
  11. ^ Arthur Salm: Novelist Kurt Vonnegut: So it goes, The San Diego Union-Tribune April 15, 2007
  12. ^ Vonnegut, Kurt (1997). Timequake.
  13. ^ Katz, Joe (April 13, 2007). "Alumnus Vonnegut dead at 84". Chicago Maroon. http://maroon.uchicago.edu/online_edition/news/2007/04/13/alumnus-vonnegut-dead-at-84/. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  14. ^ David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, Richard Rhodes, "The Art of Fiction No. 64: Kurt Vonnegut", Paris Review, Issue 69, Spring 1977
  15. ^ Excerpt: 'Armageddon in Retrospect', NPR.org, June 3, 2008.
  16. ^ "100 Best Novels: Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)". Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/2005/100books/0,24459,slaughterhouse_five,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  17. ^ "100 Best Novels". Modern Library. July 20, 1998. http://www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/100bestnovels.html. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  18. ^ Levitas, Mitchel (August 19, 1968). "A Slight Case of Candor". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1968/08/19/books/vonnegut-monkey.html. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  19. ^ "SAAB Cape Cod — Kurt Vonnegut’s dealership". www.saabhistory.com. April 15, 2007. http://www.saabhistory.com/2007/04/15/saab-cape-cod-kurt-vonneguts-dealership/. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  20. ^ "And The Twain Shall Meet". University of Wisconsin-Madison. November 21, 1997. http://www.news.wisc.edu/4371.html. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  21. ^ "25399 Vonnegut (1999 VN20)". Jet Propulsion Laboratory: California Institute of Technology. http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=25399. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  22. ^ "I smoke, therefore I am". The Guardian Observer. February 5, 2006. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,1702180,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  23. ^ a b Feeney, Mark (2007-04-12). "Counterculture author, icon Kurt Vonnegut Jr. dies at 84". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2007/04/12/counterculture_author_icon_kurt_vonnegut_jr_dies_at_84. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  24. ^ Lloyd, Christopher (April 12, 2007). "Author Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84". Indianapolis Star. http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070412/MULTIMEDIA03/304120008. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  25. ^ "The Paris Review — The Art of Fiction No. 64 - Interview with Kurt Vonnegut". The Paris Review. 1977. http://www.theparisreview.com/viewinterview.php/prmMID/3605. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  26. ^ Stableford, Brian (1993). "Vonnegut, Kurt Jr.". in John Clute & Peter Nicholls (eds.). The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction (2nd ed.). Orbit, London. p. 1289. ISBN 1-85723-124-4. 
  27. ^ "Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84: paper". Reuters. April 2, 2007. http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN1126991620070412. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  28. ^ NY1 Story April 12, 2007
  29. ^ Callahan, Rick (January 14, 2007). "Indianapolis honors literary native son". Delaware News-Journal (reprinting from the Associated Press). http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070114/LIFE/701140320/-1/NLETTER01. Retrieved 2007-01-15. 
  30. ^ "Speakers Worldwide, Inc. - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr". Speakersworldwide.com. http://www.speakersworldwide.com/Vonnegut.html. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  31. ^ Gordon, Scott. "15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has Or Will". The A.V. Club. http://www.avclub.com/content/feature/15_things_kurt_vonnegut_said. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  32. ^ Vonnegut, Kurt (May 10, 2004). "Cold Turkey". In these Times. http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/733/. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  33. ^ Political quotes http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/funnyquotes/a/vonnegutquotes.htm
  34. ^ a b c Aggressively Unconventional: An Interview with Kurt Vonnegut, Utne Reader
  35. ^ Vonnegut, Kurt (October 29, 2004). "The End is Near". In These Times. http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/1546/. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  36. ^ Vonnegut, Mark (December 27, 2005). "Twisting Vonnegut's views on terrorism". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2005/12/27/twisting_vonneguts_views_on_terrorism/. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  37. ^ Timequake, by Kurt Vonnegut, New York: G.P. Putnam's, 1997.
  38. ^ a b c d e f Palm Sunday, by Kurt Vonnegut, 1981. Republished by The Dial Press, 2006.
  39. ^ a b c d e Vonnegut Unbound: The master of irreverence on life, death, God, humanism, and the souls of aspiring artists, By Christopher R. Blazejewski, The Harvard Crimson, Friday, May 12, 2000
  40. ^ Vonnegut, Fates Worse Than Death, p. 157; Haught, 2000 Years of Disbelief, p. 287
  41. ^ a b Haught 1996, p. 287
  42. ^ Vonnegut, Palm Sunday, p 196
  43. ^ David Brancaccio: Now on PBS (transcript), 10.07.05
  44. ^ International Academy of Humanism, published on the website of the Council for Secular Humanism
  45. ^ Vonnegut, A Man without a Country (2005), p. 80
  46. ^ a b Humanist President Kurt Vonnegut Mourned American Humanists Association Press Release, April 12, 2007
  47. ^ Unitarian Universalism is a religion that does not require its adherents to subscribe to any creed. It was formed in 1961 from a denominational merger of Unitarians and Universalists in the United States. Even after the merger, many individual congregations retained the pre-merger denominational designations ("Unitarian" or "Universalist") within their names. "Unitarian" is a common shorthand designation for members of the denomination, though "Unitarian Universalist" (abbreviated as UU) is the more technically correct term.
  48. ^ Vonnegut's mass had been written as a counterpoint to a "sadistic and masochistic" 1570 Catholic mass. It was translated into Latin and set to music by acquaintances. Fates Worse than Death, pp. 69-73, 223-234
  49. ^ "I say of Jesus, as all humanists do, 'If what he said is good, and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?' But if Christ hadn't delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn't want to be a human being. I'd just as soon be a rattlesnake." Vonnegut, A Man without a Country, pp 80-81
  50. ^ Business Communicators in Virtuality "The Infinite Mind Radio Progam is Now Simulcasting in Second Life" http://freshtakes.typepad.com/sl_communicators/2006/08/the_infinite_mi.html
  51. ^ Business Week, "Why Saavy CEOs Hang Out in Second Life"
  52. ^ Herman, Steve. "Vonnegut's Hometown Honors Late Author". http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/V/VONNEGUT_HONORED?SITE=INLAF&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT. Retrieved 2007-04-28. 
  53. ^ SSNGetName(); (2007-04-13). "Kurt Vonnegut Dead | The Onion — America's Finest News Source". The Onion. http://www.theonion.com/content/amvo/kurt_vonnegut_dead. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  54. ^ Drew Bixby. "Kurt's Mile-High Celebration". Westword. http://bestofdenver.com/2007-11-08/calendar/kurt-s-mile-high-celebration/. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules — and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress.
I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts...
I simply never unlearned junior civics. I still believe in it.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-11-112007-04-11) was an American novelist known for works blending satire, black comedy, and science fiction.

Contents

Sourced

I was taught that the human brain was the crowning glory of evolution so far, but I think it’s a very poor scheme for survival.
  • I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts. This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever.
    • "Physicist, Purge Thyself" in the Chicago Tribune Magazine (22 June 1969)
  • High school is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of.
    • Introduction to Our Time Is Now: Notes From the High School Underground, John Birmingham, ed. (1970)
  • I was taught in the sixth grade that we had a standing army of just over a hundred thousand men and that the generals had nothing to say about what was done in Washington. I was taught to be proud of that and to pity Europe for having more than a million men under arms and spending all their money on airplanes and tanks. I simply never unlearned junior civics. I still believe in it. I got a very good grade.
    • As quoted by James Lundquist in Kurt Vonnegut (1971)
  • Well, I've worried some about, you know, why write books ... why are we teaching people to write books when presidents and senators do not read them, and generals do not read them. And it's been the university experience that taught me that there is a very good reason, that you catch people before they become generals and presidents and so forth and you poison their minds with ... humanity, and however you want to poison their minds, it's presumably to encourage them to make a better world.
    • "A Talk with Kurt Vonnegut. Jr." by Robert Scholes in The Vonnegut Statement (1973) edited by Jerome Klinkowitz and John Somer October 1966), later published in Conversations With Kurt Vonnegut (1988), p. 123
Find a subject you care about.
  • I was taught that the human brain was the crowning glory of evolution so far, but I think it’s a very poor scheme for survival.
    • As quoted in The Observer [London] (27 December 1987)
  • 1. Find a subject you care about.
    2. Do not ramble, though.
    3. Keep it simple.
    4. Have the guts to cut.
    5. Sound like yourself.
    6. Say what you mean to say.
    7. Pity the readers.
    • As quoted in Science Fictionisms (1995), compiled by William Rotsler
The telling of jokes is an art of its own, and it always rises from some emotional threat. The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful.
  • You learn about life by the accidents you have, over and over again, and your father is always in your head when that stuff happens. Writing, most of the time, for most people, is an accident and your father is there for that, too. You know, I taught writing for a while and whenever somebody would tell me they were going to write about their dad, I would tell them they might as well go write about killing puppies because neither story was going to work. It just doesn't work. Your father won't let it happen.
  • The telling of jokes is an art of its own, and it always rises from some emotional threat. The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful.
  • One of the great American tragedies is to have participated in a just war. It's been possible for politicians and movie-makers to encourage us we're always good guys. The Second World War absolutely had to be fought. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. But we never talk about the people we kill. This is never spoken of.
  • I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."
    • "Knowing What's Nice", an essay from In These Times (2003)
  • We're terrible animals. I think that the Earth's immune system is trying to get rid of us, as well it should.
    • On humans, interviewed by Jon Stewart, The Daily Show (13 September 2005)
I do feel that evolution is being controlled by some sort of divine engineer. ... That’s why we’ve got giraffes and hippopotami and the clap.
  • I have wanted to give Iraq a lesson in democracy — because we’re experienced with it, you know. And, in democracy, after a hundred years, you have to let your slaves go. And, after a hundred and fifty years, you have to let your women vote. And, at the beginning of democracy, is that quite a bit of genocide and ethnic cleansing is quite okay. And that’s what’s going on now.
  • I do feel that evolution is being controlled by some sort of divine engineer. I can't help thinking that. And this engineer knows exactly what he or she is doing and why, and where evolution is headed. That’s why we’ve got giraffes and hippopotami and the clap.
    • On evolution vs. "intelligent design", interviewed by Jon Stewart, The Daily Show (13 September 2005)
  • [When Vonnegut tells his wife he's going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is, is we're here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore.
THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD WAS MUSIC
  • Where is home? I've wondered where home is, and I realized, it's not Mars or someplace like that, it's Indianapolis when I was nine years old. I had a brother and a sister, a cat and a dog, and a mother and a father and uncles and aunts. And there's no way I can get there again.
  • If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:
    THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
    FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
    WAS MUSIC
    • As quoted in "Vonnegut's Blues For America" Sunday Herald (7 January 2006)
I don't think there would be many jokes, if there weren't constant frustration and fear...
  • The only difference between Bush and Hitler is that Hitler was elected.
    • As quoted in "Kurt Vonnegut's 'Stardust Memory'" by Harvey Wasserman in The Free Press (4 March 2006); In actuality, Hitler also wasn't elected by a clear majority vote. Although the Nazi Party was elected to the largest number of seats in the Reichstag, it did not have a majority, and could only form a government through a coalition. Eventually, Hitler was appointed as Chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg, and used that position as leverage to gain dictatorial powers.
  • I don't think there would be many jokes, if there weren't constant frustration and fear and so forth. It's a response to bad troubles like crime.
  • People hate it when they're tickled because laughter is not pleasant, if it goes on too long. I think it's a desperate sort of convulsion in desperate circumstances, which helps a little.
  • “My theory is that all women have hydrofluoric acid bottled up inside,” he wrote.
    • Kurt Vonnegut, Writer of Classics of the American Counterculture, Dies at 84 by Dinitia Smith in the NYTimes on April 11, 2007[1]

Player Piano (1952)

I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.
  • During the war, in hundreds of Iliums over America, managers and engineers learned to get along without their men and women, who went to fight. It was the miracle that won the war — production with almost no manpower. In the patois of the north side of the river, it was the know-how that won the war. Democracy owed its life to know-how.
    • Ch. 1
  • "You think I'm insane?" said Finnerty. Apparently he wanted more of a reaction than Paul had given him.
    "You're still in touch. I guess that's the test."
    "Barely — barely."
    "A psychiatrist could help. There's a good man in Albany."
    Finnerty shook his head. "He'd pull me back into the center, and I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center." He nodded, "Big, undreamed-of things — the people on the edge see them first."
    • Ch. 9
If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you're a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind.
  • "Strange business," said Lasher. "This crusading spirit of the managers and engineers, the idea of designing and manufacturing and distributing being sort of a holy war: all that folklore was cooked up by public relations and advertising men hired by managers and engineers to make big business popular in the old days, which it certainly wasn't in the beginning. Now, the engineers and managers believe with all their hearts the glorious things their forebears hired people to say about them. Yesterday's snow job becomes today's sermon."
    • Ch. 9
  • In order to get what we've got, Anita, we have, in effect, traded these people out of what was the most important thing on earth to them — the feeling of being needed and useful, the foundation of self-respect.
    • Ch. 18
  • Here it was again, the most ancient of roadforks, one that Paul had glimpsed before, in Kroner's study, months ago. The choice of one course or the other had nothing to do with machines, hierarchies, economics, love, age. It was a purely internal matter. Every child older than six knew the fork, and knew what the good guys did here, and what the bad guys did here. The fork was a familiar one in folk tales the world over, and the good guys and the bad guys, whether in chaps, breechclouts, serapes, leopardskins, or banker's gray pinstripes, all separated here.
    Bad guys turned informer. Good guys didn't — no matter when, no matter what.
    • Ch. 31
  • "Things don't stay the way they are," said Finnerty. "It's too entertaining to try to change them."
    • Ch. 34
  • Everybody's shaking in his boots, so don't be bluffed.
  • Almost nobody's competent, Paul. It's enough to make you cry to see how bad most people are at their jobs. If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you're a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind.

The Sirens of Titan (1959)

A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.
  • Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules — and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress.
    • Dedication page
  • He ransacked his memory like a thief going through another man's billfold.
    • Chapter 1
The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.
  • A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.
  • It is always pitiful when any human being falls into a condition hardly more respectable than that of an animal. How much more pitiful it is when the person who falls has had all the advantages!
  • There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.
  • Sometimes I think it is a great mistake to have matter that can think and feel. It complains so. By the same token, though, I suppose that boulders and mountains and moons could be accused of being a little too phlegmatic.
  • Son — they say there isn't any royalty in this country, but do you want me to tell you how to be king of the United States of America? Just fall through the hole in a privy and come out smelling like a rose.
  • Take Care of the People, and God Almighty Will Take Care of Himself.
  • The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart.
  • I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.
  • The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody would be to not be used for anything by anybody. Thank you for using me, even though I didn't want to be used by anybody.
  • Puny man can do nothing at all to help or please God Almighty, and Luck is not the hand of God.
  • You go up to a man, and you say, "How are things going, Joe?" and he says, "Oh fine, fine — couldn't be better." And you look into his eyes, and you see things really couldn't be much worse. When you get right down to it, everybody's having a perfectly lousy time of it, and I mean everybody. And the hell of it is, nothing seems to help much.
  • Life for a punctual person is like a roller coaster. All kinds of things are going to happen to you! Sure, I can see the whole roller coaster you're on. And sure — I could give you a piece of paper that would tell you about every dip and turn, warn you about every bogeyman that was going to pop out at you in the tunnels. But that wouldn't help you any. Because you'd still have to take the roller-coaster ride, I didn't design the roller coaster, I don't own it, and I don't say who rides and who doesn't. I just know what it's shaped like.

Mother Night (1961)

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
  • We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
    • Introduction
    • Sometimes misquoted as: Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.
  • When you're dead you're dead.
    • Introduction
  • Make love when you can. It's good for you.
    • Introduction
  • Here lies Howard Campbell’s essence,
    Freed from his body’s noisome nuisance.
    His body, empty, prowls the earth,
    Earning what a body’s worth.
    If his body and his essence remain apart,
    Burn his body, but spare this, his heart.
I can't think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can't believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to the human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will.
  • There are plenty of good reasons for fighting," I said, "but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where's evil? It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side.
  • Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.
  • "You hate America, don't you?" she said.
    "That would be as silly as loving it," I said. "It's impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn't interest me. It's no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can't think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can't believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to the human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will."
  • Drawn crudely in the dust of three window-panes were a swastika, a hammer and sickle, and the Stars and Stripes. I had drawn the three symbols weeks before, at the conclusion of an argument about patriotism with Kraft. I had given a hearty cheer for each symbol, demonstrating to Kraft the meaning of patriotism to, respectively, a Nazi, a Communist, and an American. "Hooray, hooray, hooray," I'd said.
  • What froze me was the fact that I had absolutely no reason to move in any direction. What had made me move through so many dead and pointless years was curiosity. Now even that flickered out.
  • Generally speaking, espionage offers each spy an opportunity to go crazy in a way he finds irresistible.

Cat's Cradle (1963)

Full title: Cat's Cradle These are just a sample for more from this work see: Cat's Cradle
A karass ignores national, institutional, occupational, familial, and class boundaries. It is as free form as an amoeba.
  • Nothing in this book is true.
  • We Bokonists believe that humanity is organized into teams, teams that do God's Will without ever discovering what they are doing. Such a team is called a karass by Bokonon "If you find your life tangled up with somebody else's life for no very logical reasons," writes Bokonon, "that person may be a member of your karass." At another point in The Books of Bokonon he tells us, "Man created the checkerboard; God created the karass." By that he means that a karass ignores national, institutional, occupational, familial, and class boundaries. It is as free form as an amoeba.
  • Busy, busy, busy.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)

Full title: God Bless You, Mr Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine
You're the only ones zany enough to agonize over time and distance without limit, over mysteries that will never die, over the fact that we are right now determining whether the space voyage for the next billion years or so is going to be Heaven or Hell.
  • I love you sons of bitches. You’re all I read any more. You're the only ones who’ll talk all about the really terrific changes going on, the only ones crazy enough to know that life is a space voyage, and not a short one, either, but one that’ll last for billions of years. You’re the only ones with guts enough to really care about the future, who really notice what machines do to us, what wars do to us, what cities do to us, what big, simple ideas do to us, what tremendous misunderstanding, mistakes, accidents, catastrophes do to us. You're the only ones zany enough to agonize over time and distance without limit, over mysteries that will never die, over the fact that we are right now determining whether the space voyage for the next billion years or so is going to be Heaven or Hell.
    • "Eliot Rosewater" to a group of science fiction writers
  • We few, we happy few, we band of brothers — joined in the serious business of keeping our food, shelter, clothing and loved ones from combining with oxygen.
    • "Eliot Rosewater" to a group of volunteer firemen.
  • Like all real heroes, Charley had a fatal flaw. He refused to believe that he had gonorrhea, whereas the truth was that he did.
    • On Charley Warmergran, the Fire Chief of Rosewater.
  • He alienated his friends in the sciences by thanking them extravagantly for scientific advances he had read about in the recent newspapers and magazines, by assuring them, with a perfectly straight face, that life was getting better and better, thanks to scientific thinking.
    • Concerning Eliot Rosewater.
  • A sum of money is a leading character in this tale about people, just as a sum of honey might properly be a leading character in a tale about bees.
    • Opening line of novel.
  • Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies — "God damn it, you've got to be kind."
  • Pretend to be good always, and even God will be fooled.

Welcome to the Monkey House (1968)

a collection of previously published short stories
  • The public health authorities never mention the main reason many Americans have for smoking heavily, which is that smoking is a fairly sure, fairly honorable form of suicide.
    • Preface
  • I never knew a writer's wife who wasn't beautiful.
    • Preface

Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

Full title: Slaughterhouse-Five, Or The Children's Crusade : A Duty-dance with Death These are just a few samples, for more from this work see Slaughterhouse-Five
So it goes.
  • So it goes.
    • Recurring statement throughout the novel
  • The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.
    When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is "So it goes."
    • Billy writing a letter to a newspaper describing the Tralfamadorians
  • Billy coughed when the door was opened, and when he coughed he shit thin gruel. This was in accordance with the Third Law of Motion according to Sir Isaac Newton. This law tells us that for each reaction there is a reaction which is equal and opposite in direction. This can be useful in rocketry.
  • Derby described the incredible artificial weather that Earthlings sometimes create for other Earthlings when they don't want those other Earthlings to inhabit Earth any more.

Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1970)

A play, performed in New York City from October 7, 1970 - March 14, 1971
  • Things die. All things die.
    • Introduction, "About This Play"
  • All through the day I'm so confident. That's why I'm such a good salesman, you know? I have confidence, and I look like I have confidence, and that gives other people confidence.
    • "Herb Shuttle"
  • Maybe God has let everybody who ever lived be reborn — so he or she can see how it ends. Even Pitecanthropus erectus and Australopithecus and Sinanthropus pekensis and the Neanderthalers are back on Earth — to see how it ends. They're all on Times Square — making change for peepshows. Or recruiting Marines.
    • "Dr. Norbert Woodley"
  • You know what gets me? ... How everybody says "fuck" and "shit" all the time. I used to be scared shitless I'd say "fuck" or "shit" in public, by accident. Now everybody says "fuck" and "shit", "fuck" and "shit" all the time. Something very big must have happened while we were out of the country.
    • "Col. Looseleaf Harper"
  • The new heroism — put a village idiot into a pressure cooker, seal it up tight, and shoot him at the moon.
    • "Harold Ryan"
  • Hello, I am Wanda June. Today was going to be my birthday, but I was hit by an ice-cream truck before I could have my party. I am dead now. I am in Heaven. That is why my parents did not pick up my cake at the bakery. I am not mad at the ice-cream truck driver, even though he was drunk when he hit me. It didn't hurt much. It wasn't even as bad as the sting of a bumblebee. I am really happy here! It's so much fun. I'm glad the driver was drunk. If he hadn't been, I might not have gone to Heaven for years and years and years. I would have had to go to high school first, and then beauty college. I would have had to get married and have babies and everything. Now I can just play and play and play. Any time I want any pink cotton candy I can have some. Everybody up here is happy — the animals and the dead soldiers and people who went to the electric chair and everything. They're all glad for whatever sent them here. Nobody is mad. We're all too busy playing shuffleboard. So if you think of killing somebody, don't worry about it. Just go ahead and do it. Whoever you do it to should kiss you for doing it. The soldiers up here just love the shrapnel and the tanks and the bayonets and the dum dums that let them play shuffleboard all the time — and drink beer.
    • "Wanda June"
  • Don't lecture me on race relations. I don't have a molecule of prejudice. I've been in battle with every kind of man there is. I've been in bed with every kind of woman there is — from a Laplander to a Tierra del Fuegian. If I'd ever been to the South Pole, there'd be a hell of a lot of penguins who looked like me.
    • "Harold Ryan"
  • No grown woman is a fan of premature ejaculation.
    • "Mildred"
  • I have this theory about why men kill each other and break things. ... Never mind. It's a dumb theory. I was going to say it was all sexual ... but everything is sexual ... but alcohol.
    • "Mildred"
  • When I was a naive young recruit in Spain, I used to wonder why soldiers bayoneted oil paintings, shot the noses off statues and defecated into grand pianos. I now understand: it was to teach civilians the deepest sort of respect for men in uniform — uncontrollable fear.
    • "Harold Ryan"
  • Wars would be a lot better, I think, if guys would say to themselves sometimes "Jesus — I'm not going to do that to the enemy. That's too much."
    • "Col. Looseleaf Harper"

Between Time and Timbuktu (1972)

Full title: Between Time and Timbuktu, or Prometheus-5 (the script for a public-television NET Playhouse special based on previously published material)
  • This script, it seems to me, is the work of professionals who yearned to be as charming as inspired amateurs can sometimes be.
    • "Preface"
  • I don't like film. Film is too clankingly real, too permanent, too industrial for me. ... The worst thing about film, from my point of view, is that it cripples illusions which I have encouraged people to create in their heads. Film doesn't create illusions. It makes them impossible. It's a bullying form of reality, like the model rooms in the furniture department of Bloomingdale's.
    • "Preface"
  • I have become an enthusiast for the printed word again. I have to be that, I now understand, because I want to be a character in all of my works. I can do that in print. In a movie, somehow, the author always vanishes. Everything of mine which has been filmed so far has been one character short, and that character is me.
    • "Preface"

Breakfast of Champions (1973)

Full title: Breakfast of Champions, Or Goodbye Blue Monday!
I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.
  • And so on.
    • recurring phrase
  • Charm was a scheme for making strangers like and trust a person immediately, no matter what the charmer had in mind.
    • page 19
  • I can have oodles of charm when I want to.
    • page 20
  • I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
    It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.
    Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not.
    So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things.
    What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.
    And all music is.
  • Ideas or the lack of them can cause disease.
  • Let us devote to unselfishness the frenzy we once gave gold and underpants.
Roses are red
And ready for plucking
You're sixteen
And ready for high school.
  • Teachers of children in the United States of America wrote this date on blackboards again and again, and asked the children to memorize it with pride and joy: 1492. The teachers told the children that this was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually, millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them.
  • Like most science-fiction writers, Trout knew almost nothing about science.
What is the purpose of life?
  • Roses are red
    And ready for plucking
    You're sixteen
    And ready for high school.
  • To be
    the eyes
    and ears
    and conscience
    of the Creator of the Universe,
    you fool.
    • Kilgore Trout's unwritten reply to the question "What is the purpose of life?"
  • Trout trudged onward, a stranger in a strange land. His pilgrimage was rewarded with new wisdom, which would never have been his had he remained in his basement in Cohoes. He learned the answer to a question many human beings were asking themselves so frantically: "What's blocking the traffic on the westbound barrel of the Midland City stretch of the Interstate?"
Symbols can be so beautiful, sometimes.
  • I was on par with the Creator of the Universe there in the dark in the cocktail lounge. I shrunk the Universe to a ball exactly one light-year in diameter. I had it explode. I had it disperse itself again.
    Ask me a question, any question. How old is the Universe? It is one half-second old, but the half-second has lasted one quintillion years so far. Who created it? Nobody created it. It has always been here.
    What is time? It is a serpent which eats its tail, like this:
    This is the snake which uncoiled itself long enough to offer Eve the apple, which looked like this:
    What was the apple which Eve and Adam ate? It was the Creator of the Universe.
    And so on.
    Symbols can be so beautiful, sometimes.
  • He was a graduate of West Point, a military academy which turned young men into homicidal maniacs for use in war.
Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery.
  • Why are so many Americans treated by their government as though their lives were as disposable as paper facial tissue? Because that was the way authors customarily treated bit-part players in their made-up tales.
  • It was Trout’s fantasy that somebody would be outraged by the footprints. This would give him the opportunity to reply grandly, “What is it that offends you so? I am simply using man’s first printing press. You are reading a bold and universal headline which says ,’I am here, I am here, I am here.’
  • Listen:
    The waitress brought me another drink. She wanted to light my hurricane lamp again. I wouldn't let her. "Can you see anything in the dark, with your sunglasses on?" she asked me.
    "The big show is inside my head," I said
  • We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.
    • Kilgore Trout's epitaph
    • Unsourced paraphrase or variant: We are human only to the extent that our ideas remain humane.
  • Hey — guess what: You're the only creature with free will. How does that make you feel?
  • Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery.
  • There is no order in the world around us, we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead. It is hard to adapt to chaos, but it can be done. I am living proof of that: It can be done.
  • Here was what Kilgore Trout cried out to me in my father's voice: "Make me young, make me young, make me young!"
    • Last line

Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons (1974)

A wampeter is an object around which the lives of many otherwise unrelated people may revolve...
  • Dear Reader: The title of this book is composed of three words from my novel Cat's Cradle. A wampeter is an object around which the lives of many otherwise unrelated people may revolve. The Holy Grail would be a case in point. Foma are harmless untruths, intended to comfort simple souls. An example: "Prosperity is just around the corner." A granfalloon is a proud and meaningless association of human beings. Taken together, the words form as good an umbrella as any for this collection of some of the reviews and essays I've written, a few of the speeches I made.
    • "Preface"
  • I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled “Science Fiction” ... and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.
    • "Science Fiction", originally published in The New York Times Book Review (ndg)
  • The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers. The people don’t acknowledge this. They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead.
    • "In a Manner that Must Shame God Himself"
  • This theory argues that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are supersensitive. They keel over like canaries in coal mines filled with poison gas, long before more robust types realize that any danger is there.
  • The most useful thing I could do before this meeting is to keel over. On the other hand, artists are keeling over by the thousands every day and nobody seems to pay the least attention.

Playboy interview (1973)

Playboy (July 1973)
Human beings will be happier — not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie — but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That’s my utopia.
  • I couldn't survive my own pessimism if I didn't have some kind of sunny little dream. ... Human beings will be happier — not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie — but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That’s my utopia. That's what I want for me.
  • It goes against the American storytelling grain to have someone in a situation he can't get out of, but I think this is very usual in life. There are people, particularly dumb people, who are in terrible trouble and never get out of it, because they're not intelligent enough. It strikes me as gruesome and comical that in our culture we have an expectation that man can always solve his problems. This is so untrue that it makes me want to cry — or laugh.
  • I've often thought there ought to be a manual to hand to little kids, telling them what kind of planet they're on, why they don't fall off it, how much time they've probably got here, how to avoid poison ivy, and so on. I tried to write one once. It was called Welcome to Earth. But I got stuck on explaining why we don't fall off the planet. Gravity is just a word. It doesn't explain anything. If I could get past gravity, I'd tell them how we reproduce, how long we've been here, apparently, and a little bit about evolution. I didn't learn until I was in college about all the other cultures, and I should have learned that in the first grade. A first grader should understand that his or her culture isn't a rational invention; that there are thousands of other cultures and they all work pretty well; that all cultures function on faith rather than truth; that there are lots of alternatives to our own society. Cultural relativity is defensible and attractive. It's also a source of hope. It means we don't have to continue this way if we don't like it.

Bennington College address (1970)

Address to the graduating class at Bennington College; several of these quotes are cited in the Columbia Dictionary of Quotations as coming from an essay titled "When I Was Twenty-One", but, in fact, there is no essay of that title in Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons.
I used to think that science would save us, and science certainly tried. But we can't stand any more tremendous explosions, either for or against democracy.
  • I thought scientists were going to find out exactly how everything worked, and then make it work better. I fully expected that by the time I was twenty-one, some scientist, maybe my brother, would have taken a color photograph of God Almighty — and sold it to Popular Mechanics magazine.
    Scientific truth was going to make us so happy and comfortable. What actually happened when I was twenty-one was that we dropped scientific truth on Hiroshima.
  • We would be a lot safer if the Government would take its money out of science and put it into astrology and the reading of palms. I used to think that science would save us, and science certainly tried. But we can't stand any more tremendous explosions, either for or against democracy.
  • I know that millions of dollars have been spent to produce this splendid graduating class, and that the main hope of your teachers was, once they got through with you, that you would no longer be superstitious. I'm sorry — I have to undo that now. I beg you to believe in the most ridiculous superstition of all: that humanity is at the center of the universe, the fulfiller or the frustrator of the grandest dreams of God Almighty.
    If you can believe that, and make others believe it, then there might be hope for us. Human beings might stop treating each other like garbage, might begin to treasure and protect each other instead. Then it might be all right to have babies again.
  • About astrology and palmistry: They are good because they make people feel vivid and full of possibilities. They are communism at its best. Everybody has a birthday and almost everybody has a palm.
  • Which brings us to the arts, whose purpose, in common with astrology, is to use frauds in order to make human beings seem more wonderful than they really are. Dancers show us human beings who move much more gracefully than human beings really move. Films and books and plays show us people talking much more entertainingly than people really talk, make paltry human enterprises seem important. Singers and musicians show us human beings making sounds far more lovely than human beings really make. Architects give us temples in which something marvelous is obviously going on. Actually, practically nothing is going on inside. And on and on.
  • The arts put man at the center of the universe, whether he belongs there or not. Military science, on the other hand, treats man as garbage — and his children, and his cities, too. Military science is probably right about the contemptibility of man in the vastness of the universe. Still — I deny that contemptibility, and I beg you to deny it, through the creation of appreciation of art.
  • A great swindle of our time is the assumption that science has made religion obsolete. All science has damaged is the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Jonah and the Whale. Everything else holds up pretty well, particularly lessons about fairness and gentleness. People who find those lessons irrelevant in the twentieth century are simply using science as an excuse for greed and harshness. Science has nothing to do with it, friends.

Slapstick (1976)

Full title: Slapstick, or Lonesome No More
I wish that people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other, when they fight, "Please — a little less love, and a little more common decency."
  • Hi Ho
    • Prologue, and a recurring phrase throughout the book.
  • Love is where you find it. I think it is foolish to go looking for it, and I think it can often be poisonous.
    • Prologue
  • I wish that people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other, when they fight, "Please — a little less love, and a little more common decency."
    • Prologue
History is merely a list of surprises. ... It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again. Please write that down.
  • Eliza and I composed a precocious critique of the Constitution of the United States of America ... We argued that is was as good a scheme for misery as any, since its success in keeping the common people reasonably happy and proud depended on the strength of the people themselves — and yet it prescribed no practical machinery which would tend to make the people, as opposed to their elected representatives, strong.
    We said it was possible that the framers of the Constitution were blind to the beauty of persons who were without great wealth or powerful friends or public office, but who were nonetheless genuinely strong.
    We thought it was more likely, though, that their framers had not noticed that it was natural, and therefore almost inevitable, that human beings in extraordinary and enduring situations should think of themselves of composing new families. Eliza and I pointed out that this happened no less in democracies than in tyrannies, since human beings were the same the wide world over, and civilized only yesterday.
    Elected representatives, hence, could be expected to become members of the famous and powerful family of elected representatives — which would, perfectly naturally, make them wary and squeamish and stingy with respect to all the other sorts of families which, again, perfectly naturally, subdivided mankind.
    Elize and I ... proposed that the Constitution be amended so as to guarantee that every citizen, no matter how humble, or crazy or incompetent or deformed, somehow be given membership in some family as covertly xenophobic and crafty as the one their public servants formed.
    • Ch. 6
  • Why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut. Why don't you take a flying fuck at the moooooooooon!
    • Ch. 33, and passim
  • History is merely a list of surprises. ... It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again. Please write that down.
    • Ch. 48
  • If you can do no good, at least do no harm.

Jailbird (1979)

I still believe that peace and plenty and happiness can be worked out some way. I am a fool.
  • Sally In The Garden:

    Sally in the garden,
    Siftin' cinders,
    Lifted up her leg,
    And farted like a man,
    The bursting of her bloomers broke all the winders,
    The cheeks of her ass went (blam, blam, blam)
  • I still believe that peace and plenty and happiness can be worked out some way. I am a fool.
    • p. 14
  • What is flirtatiousness but an argument that life must go on and on and on?
    • p. 24
  • Congressman Nixon had asked me why, as the son of immigrants who had been treated so well by Americans, as a man who had been treated like a son and been sent to Harvard by an American capitalist, I had been so ungrateful to the American economic system.
    The answer I gave him was not original. Nothing about me has ever been original. I repeated what my one-time hero, Kenneth Whistler, had said in reply to the same general sort of question long, long ago. Whistler had been a witness at a trial of strikers accused of violence. The judge had become curious about him, had asked him why such a well-educated man from such a good family would so immerse himself in the working class.
    My stolen answer to Nixon was this: "Why? The Sermon on the Mount, sir."
  • You can't help it but you were born without a heart. At least you tried to believe what the people with hearts believed — so you were a good man just the same.
  • "That was the strength of the Nazis," she said. "They understood God better than anyone. They knew how to make him stay away."

Palm Sunday (1981)

An Autobiographical Collage
The most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.
  • What we will be seeking ... for the rest of our lives will be large, stable communities of like-minded people, which is to say relatives. They no longer exist. The lack of them is not only the main cause, but probably the only cause of our shapeless discontent in the midst of such prosperity.
    • "Thoughts of a Free Thinker", commencement address, Hobart and William Smith Colleges (26 May 1974)
  • What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.
    • "Thoughts of a Free Thinker", commencement address, Hobart and William Smith Colleges (26 May 1974)
  • I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.
    • "Self-Interview", originally appeared in The Paris Review no. 69 (1977)
  • [Gay Talese's Thy Neighbor's Wife] is for me a secretly deep history of a generation of middle-class American males, my own, which was taught by parents and athletic coaches and scoutmasters and military chaplains and quack doctors and so on to be deeply ashamed of masturbation and wet dreams.
    And the hidden plea in the book is one which first appeared in my eyes when I was fourteen, say, and which has not vanished entirely to this day. It is part of the mystery of me. The plea is addressed by old-fashioned males forever full of jism to any pretty human female, on the street, in a magazine, in a movie — anywhere. The plea is this: "Please, pretty lady, don't make me play with my private parts again."
    • "The Sexual Revolution" (ndg)
  • Jokes can be noble. Laughs are exactly as honorable as tears. Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion, to the futility of thinking and striving anymore. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward — and since I can start thinking and striving again that much sooner.
    • "Palm Sunday", a sermon delivered at St. Clement's Church, New York City (ndg), originally published in The Nation as "Hypocrites You Always Have With You" (ndg)
  • As for literary criticism in general: I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel or a play or a poem is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split.
    • The People One Knows
  • And I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.
    • "The Noodle Factory", speech given at the dedication of the new library at the University of Connecticut, New London

Deadeye Dick (1982)

We cannot get rid of mankind's fleetingly evil wishes. We can get rid of the machines that make them come true.
  • This is my principal objection to life, I think: It is too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes.
    • p.6
  • Many people found our house spooky, and the attic in fact as full of evil when I was born. It housed a collection of more than three hundred antique and modern firearms. Father had bought them during his and Mother's six-month honeymoon in Europe in 1922. Father thought them beautiful, but they might as well have been copperheads and rattlesnakes. They were murder.
  • I hadn't aimed at anything. If I had thought of the bullet's hitting anything, I don't remember now. I was the great marksman, anyway. If I aimed at nothing, then nothing is what I would hit. The bullet was a symbol, and nobody was ever hurt by a symbol. It was a farewell to my childhood and a confirmation of my manhood. Why didn't I use a blank cartridge? What kind of a symbol would that have been?
    • Describing an accident in which the narrator, as a child, accidentally shot a woman
  • My wife has been killed by a machine which should never have come into the hands of any human being. It is called a firearm. It makes the blackest of all human wishes come true at once, at a distance: that something die. There is evil for you. We cannot get rid of mankind's fleetingly evil wishes. We can get rid of the machines that make them come true. I give you a holy word: DISARM.
    • Statement of the husband of the woman killed in the accident
  • You want to know something? We are still in the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages — they haven't ended yet.
    • Closing lines

Galápagos (1985)

  • Mere opinions, in fact, were as likely to govern people's actions as hard evidence, and were subject to sudden reversals as hard evidence could never be. So the Galapagos Islands could be hell in one moment and heaven in the next, and Julius Caesar could be a statesman in one moment and a butcher in the next, and Ecuadorian paper money could be traded for food, shelter, and clothing in one moment and line the bottom of a birdcage in the next, and the universe could be created by God Almighty in one moment and by a big explosion in the next — and on and on.
  • That, in my opinion, was the most diabolical aspect of those old-time brains: They would tell their owners, in effect, "Here's a crazy thing we could actually do, probably, but would never do it, of course. It's just fun to think about."
    And then, as though in trances, the people would really do it — have slaves fight each other to death in the Colosseum, or burn people alive in the public square for holding opinions which were locally unpopular, or build factories whose only purpose was to kill people in industrial quantities, or to blow up whole cities, and on and on.
  • Why so many of us a million years ago purposely knocked out major chunks of our brains with alcohol from time to time remains an interesting mystery. It may be we were trying to to give evolution a shove in the right direction -- in the direction of smaller brains.

Bluebeard (1987)

Time is liquid.
  • Time is liquid. One moment is no more important than any other and all moments quickly run away.
    • p.82
  • I've got news for Mr. Santayana: we're doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That's what it is to be alive.
    • p. 91, referring to George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"
Belief is nearly the whole of the Universe, whether based on truth or not.
  • Belief is nearly the whole of the Universe, whether based on truth or not.
    • p. 144
  • Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?
    • p. 168
  • What is literature but an insider's newsletter about affairs relating to molecules, of no importance to anything in the Universe but a few molecules who have the disease called 'thought'.
    • p. 188
  • My soul knows my meat is doing bad things, and is embarrassed. But my meat just keeps right on doing bad, dumb things."
    • p. 246
  • "We're having a celebration, so all sorts of things have been said which are not true," I said. "That's how to act at a party."
  • "I can't help it," I said. "My soul knows my meat is doing bad things, and is embarrassed. But my meat just keeps right on doing bad, dumb things."
    "You and your what?" he said.
    "My soul and my meat," I said.
    "They're separate?" he said.
    "I sure hope they are," I said. I laughed. "I would hate to be responsible for what my meat does."
  • It is a gruesome Disneyland. Nobody is cute there.

Hocus Pocus (1990)

The most important message of a crucifix, to me anyway, was how unspeakably cruel supposedly sane human beings can be when under orders from a superior authority.
  • I think William Shakespeare was the wisest human being I ever heard of. To be perfectly frank, though, that's not saying much. We are impossibly conceited animals, and actually dumb as heck. Ask any teacher. You don't even have to ask a teacher. Ask anybody. Dogs and cats are smarter than we are.
  • The sermon was based on what he claimed was a well-known fact, that there were no Atheists in foxholes. I asked Jack what he thought of the sermon afterwards, and he said, "There's a Chaplain who never visited the front."
  • If facts weren't funny, or scary, or couldn't make you rich, the heck with them.
  • The most important message of a crucifix, to me anyway, was how unspeakably cruel supposedly sane human beings can be when under orders from a superior authority.
  • See the nigger fly the airplane!
  • They're playin our song Gene!
Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn't mean we deserve to conquer the Universe.
  • Beer, of course, is actually a depressant. But poor people will never stop hoping otherwise.
  • She was an alcoholic. I didn't blame myself for that. The worst problem in the life of any alcoholic is alcohol.
  • "I wish I had been born a bird instead," he said.
    "I wish we had all been born birds instead."
  • Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn't mean we deserve to conquer the Universe.
  • How embarrassing to be human.
  • I asked Rob Roy where he had gone to college.
    "Yale," he said.
    I told him what Helen Dole said about Yale, that it ought to be called "Plantation Owners' Tech."
    "I don't get it," he said.
    "I had to ask her to explain it myself," I said. "She said Yale was where plantation owners learned how to get the natives to kill each other instead of them."
  • [Freedom of speech] isn't something somebody else gives you. That's something you give to yourself.
  • Bergeron's epitaph for the planet, I remember, which he said should be carved in big letters in a wall of the Grand Canyon for the flying-saucer people to find, was this:

    WE COULD HAVE SAVED IT
    BUT WE WERE TOO DOGGONE CHEAP

    Only he didn't say 'doggone.'"

  • Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.
  • During my three years in Vietnam, I certainly heard plenty of last words by dying American footsoldiers. Not one of them, however, had illusions that he had somehow accomplished something worthwhile in the process of making the Supreme Sacrifice.

Fates Worse Than Death (1991)

  • I think yet again of my father, who struggled to become a painter after he was forced into early and unwelcome retirement by the Great Depression. He has reason to be optimistic about his new career, since the early stages of his pictures, whether still or portraits or landscapes, were full of pow. Mother, meaning to be helpful, would say of each one: "That's really wonderful, Kurt. Now all you have to do is finish it." He would then ruin it. I remember a portrait he did of his only brother, Alex, who was an insurance salesman, which he called "Special Agent". When he roughed it in, his hand and eye conspired with a few bold strokes to capture several important truths about Alex, including a hint of disappointment. Uncle Alex was a proud graduate of Harvard, who would rather have been a scholar of literature than an insurance man.
    When Father finished the portrait, made sure every square inch of masonite had its share of paint, Uncle Alex had disappeared entirely. We had a drunk and lustful Queen Victoria instead. This was terrible.
  • I don't care if I'm remembered or not when I'm dead. (A scientist I knew at General Electric, who was married to a woman named Josephine, said to me, "Why should I buy life insurance? If I die, I won't care what's happening to Jo. I won't care about anything. I'll be dead.")

Timequake (1996)

These are just a few samples, for more from this work see: Timequake
  • All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental.
  • Many people need desperately to receive this message: "I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people don't care about them. You are not alone."
  • You were sick, but now you're well, and there's work to do.
    • Kilgore's Creed

Bagombo Snuff Box (1999)

  • As in my other works of fiction: All persons living and dead are purely coincidental, and should not be construed. No names have been changed in order to protect the innocent. Angels protect the innocent as a matter of Heavenly routine.

God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian (1999)

A collection of short pieces first broadcast on NPR in which Vonnegut imagines himself dispatched temporarily by Dr. Jack Kevorkian, allowing him to interview famous dead people.
If it weren't for the message of mercy and pity in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, I wouldn't want to be a human being. I would just as soon be a rattlesnake.
  • My first near-death experience was an accident, a botched anesthesia during a triple bypass. I had listened to several people on TV talk shows who had gone down the blue tunnel to the Pearly Gates, and even beyond the Pearly Gates, or so they said, and then come back to life again. But I certainly wouldn't have set out on such a risky expedition on purpose, without first having survived one ...
    To go through the Pearly Gates, no matter how tempting the interviewee on the other side, as I myself discovered the hard way, is to run the risk that crotchety Saint Peter, depending on his mood, may never let you out again. Think of how heartbroken your friends and relatives would be if, by going through the Pearly Gates to talk to Napoleon, say, you in effect committed suicide.
  • About belief or lack of belief in an afterlife: Some of you may know that I am neither Christian nor Jewish nor Buddist, nor a conventionally religious person of any sort.
    I am a humanist, which mean, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I'm dead.
    My German-American ancestors, the earliest of whom settled in our Middle West about the time of our Civil War, called themselves "Freethinkers," which is the same sort of thing. My great grandfather Clemens Vonnegut wrote, for example, "If what Jesus said was good, what can it matter whether he was God or not?"
    I myself have written, "If it weren't for the message of mercy and pity in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, I wouldn't want to be a human being. I would just as soon be a rattlesnake."
    • In A Man Without a Country (2005) p. 80 -81 Vonnegut makes a very similar statement:
How do humanists feel about Jesus? I say of Jesus, as all humanists do. "If what he said is good, and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?"
But if Christ hadn't delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn't want to be a human being.
I'd just as soon be a rattlesnake.
When my own time comes to join the choir invisible or whatever, God forbid, I hope someone will say, "He's up in Heaven now." Who really knows? I could have dreamed all this.
  • I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great, spectacularly prolific writer and scientist, Dr. Isaac Asimov in that essentially functionless capacity. At an A.H.A. memorial service for my predecessor I said, "Isaac is up in Heaven now." That was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. It rolled them in the aisles. Mirth! Several minutes had to pass before something resembling solemnity could be restored.
    I made that joke, of course, before my first near-death experience — the accidental one.
    So when my own time comes to join the choir invisible or whatever, God forbid, I hope someone will say, "He's up in Heaven now." Who really knows? I could have dreamed all this.
    My epitaph in any case? "Everything was beautiful. Nothing hurt." I will have gotten off so light, whatever the heck it is that was going on.
  • I wish one and all long and happy lives, no matter what may become of them afterwards. Use sunscreen! Don’t smoke cigarettes. Cigars, however, are good for you … Firearms are also good for you … Gunpowder has zero fat and zero cholesterol. That goes for dumdums, too.
  • Freud said he didn’t know what women wanted. I know what women want. They want a whole lot of people to talk to.
  • What do men want? They want a lot of pals, and they wish that people wouldn’t get so mad at them.
  • Ta ta and adios. Or, as Saint Peter said to me with a sly wink, when I told him I was on my last-round trip to Paradise: “See you later, Alligator.”
  • I asked this heroic pet lover how it felt to have died for a schnauzer named Teddy. Salvador Biagiani was philosophical. He said it sure beat dying for absolutely nothing in the Viet Nam War.
  • His plan? To pass out weapons to slaves, so they could overthrow their masters. Suicide.
Sir Isaac is there because of his insatiable curiosity about what the blue tunnel is, how the blue tunnel works.
  • I was lucky enough on this trip to interview none other than the late Adolf Hitler. I was gratified to learn that he now feels remorse for any actions of his, however indirectly, which might have had anything to do with the violent deaths suffered by thirty-five million people during World War II. He and his mistress Eva Braun, of course were among those casualties, along with four million other Germans, six million Jews, eighteen million citizens of the Soviet Union and so on.
    “I paid my dues with everyone else,” he said.
    It is his hope that a modest monument, possibly a stone cross, since he was a Christian, will be erected somewhere in his memory, possibly on the grounds of the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It should be incised, he said, with his name and dates 1889-1945. Underneath should be a two-word sentence in German: “Entschuldigen Sie.”
    Roughly translated into English, this comes out, “I beg your pardon,” or “Excuse Me.”
  • During my controlled near-death experiences, I’ve met Sir Isaac Newton, who died back in 1727 as often as I’ve met Saint Peter. They both hang out at the Heaven end of the blue tunnel of the Afterlife. Saint Peter is there because it’s his job. Sir Isaac is there because of his insatiable curiosity about what the blue tunnel is, how the blue tunnel works.
    It isn’t enough for Newton that during his eighty-five years on Earth he invented calculus, codified and quantified the laws of gravity, motion and optics, and designed the first reflecting telescope. He can’t forgive himself for having left it to Darwin to come up with the theory of evolution, to Pasteur to come up with the germ theory, and to Albert Einstein to come up with relativity. “I must have been deaf, dumb, and blind not to have come up with those myself,” he said to me. “What could have been more obvious?”
  • During my most recently controlled near-death experience, I got to interview William Shakespeare. We did not hit it off. He said the dialect I spoke was the ugliest English he had ever heard, “fit to split the ears of groundlings.” He asked if it had a name, and I said “Indianapolis.”

Cold Turkey (2004)

Essay Cold Turkey at In These Times (10 May 2004)
  • Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.
  • For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
    "Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!
  • There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don’t know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.
  • What does “A.D.” signify? That commemorates an inmate of this lunatic asylum we call Earth who was nailed to a wooden cross by a bunch of other inmates. With him still conscious, they hammered spikes through his wrists and insteps, and into the wood. Then they set the cross upright, so he dangled up there where even the shortest person in the crowd could see him writhing this way and that. Can you imagine people doing such a thing to a person?
  • Listen. All great literature is about what a bummer it is to be a human being: Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, The Red Badge of Courage, the Iliad and the Odyssey, Crime and Punishment, the Bible and The Charge of the Light Brigade.
  • I have to say this in defense of humankind: No matter in what era in history, including the Garden of Eden, everybody just got there. And, except for the Garden of Eden, there were already all these crazy games going on, which could make you act crazy, even if you weren’t crazy to begin with. Some of the games that were already going on when you got here were love and hate, liberalism and conservatism, automobiles and credit cards, golf and girls’ basketball.
    Even crazier than golf, though, is modern American politics, where, thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative.
  • If you want to take my guns away from me, and you’re all for murdering fetuses, and love it when homosexuals marry each other, and want to give them kitchen appliances at their showers, and you’re for the poor, you’re a liberal. If you are against those perversions and for the rich, you’re a conservative. What could be simpler?
  • So let’s give another big tax cut to the super-rich. That’ll teach bin Laden a lesson he won’t soon forget.
  • I am of course notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping the things will kill me. A fire at one end and a fool at the other.
  • Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.
  • One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.

I Love You, Madame Librarian (2004)

Original article from In These Times (6 August 2004)
  • In case you haven’t noticed, we are now almost as feared and hated all over the world as the Nazis were.
  • In case you haven’t noticed, we…dehumanize our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class. Send ’em anywhere. Make ’em do anything. Piece of cake.
  • War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the First World War so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun.
  • Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don't you wish you could have something named after you?
  • My last words? "Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse."
  • Napalm came from Harvard. Veritas!

A Man Without a Country (2005)

  • And now I want to tell you about my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is. So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.
  • Requiem:

    The crucified planet Earth,
    should it find a voice
    and a sense of irony,
    might now well say
    of our abuse of it,
    "Forgive them, Father,
    They know not what they do."

    The irony would be
    that we know what
    we are doing.

    When the last living thing
    has died on account of us,
    how poetical it would be
    if Earth could say,
    in a voice floating up
    perhaps
    from the floor
    of the Grand Canyon,
    "It is done."
    People did not like it here.

  • George W. Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography.
  • Doesn't anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools, or health insurance for all?
  • During the Vietnam War, Abbie Hoffman announced that the new high was banana peels taken rectally. So then FBI scientists stuffed banana peels up their asses to find out if this was true or not.
  • What is it, what can it possibly be about blowjobs and golf?
    • Martian Visitor
  • If God were alive today, he would have to be an atheist, because the excrement has hit the air-conditioning big time, big time.
  • Is it possible that seemingly incredible geniuses like Bach and Shakespeare and Einstein were not in fact superhuman, but simply plagiarists, copying great stuff from the future?
  • Old Norwegian Proverb: Swedes have short dicks but long memories.
  • My father said "When in doubt, castle."
  • [Vietnam] only made billionaires out of millionaires. [Iraq] is making trillionaires out of billionaires. Now I call that progress.
  • Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.
  • Humor is an almost physiological response to fear.
  • I think that novels that leave out technology misrepresent life as badly as Victorians misrepresented life by leaving out sex.
  • There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't' know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.
  • Socialism is no more an evil word than Christianity. Socialism no more prescribed Joseph Stalin and his secret police and shuttered churches than Christianity prescribed the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity and socialism alike, in fact, prescribe a society dedicated to the proposition that all men, women, and children are created equal and shall not starve.
  • Some of the loudest, most proudly ignorant guessing in the world is going on in Washington today. Our leaders are sick of all the solid information that has been dumped on humanity by research and scholarship and investigative reporting. They think that the whole country is sick of it, and they could be right. It isn't the gold standard that they want to put us back on. They want something even more basic. They want to put us back on the snake-oil standard.
  • The highest treason in the USA is to say Americans are not loved, no matter where they are, no matter what they are doing there.
  • If you actually are an educated, thinking person, you will not be welcome in Washington DC.
  • We are about to be attacked by Al Qaeda. Wave flags if you have them. That always seems to scare them away. I'm kidding.
  • [America's soldiers] are being treated ... like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.
  • While we were being bombed in Dresden, sitting in a cellar with our arms over our heads in case the ceiling fell, one slider said as though he were a duchess in a mansion on a cold and rainy night, “I wonder what the poor people are doing tonight.” Nobody laughed, but we were still all glad he said it.
  • Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don't you wish you could have something named after you?
  • We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different.
  • Life is no way to treat an animal.
  • If I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, “Kurt is up in heaven now.” That's my favorite joke.
  • A joke is like building a mousetrap from scratch. You have to work pretty hard to make the thing snap when it is supposed to snap.
  • Humor is a way of holding off how awful life can be.
  • I don't know about you, but I practice a disorganized religion. I belong to an unholy disorder. We call ourselves “Our Lady of Perpetual Astonishment.”
  • There is no good reason good can't triumph over evil, if only angels will get organized along the lines of the mafia.
  • You know, the truth can be really powerful stuff. You're not expecting it.
  • Evolution is so creative. That's how we got giraffes.
  • Do you think Arabs are dumb? They gave us our numbers. Try doing long division with Roman numerals.
  • It is almost always a mistake to mention Abraham Lincoln. He always steals the show.
  • We've sure come a long way since then. Sometimes I wish we hadn't. I hate H-bombs and the Jerry Springer show.
  • 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.

Unsourced

Vonnegut is one of those major iconic figures to whom, over time, many statements become attributed; unsourced attributions to him should usually be treated with some skepticism, and often a great deal of it.
  • I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split.
    • quoted in “The War Between Writers and Reviewers,” New York Times Book Review (6 January 1985).
  • When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.
  • It is a very mixed blessing to be brought back from the dead.
  • If people think nature is their friend, then they sure don't need an enemy.
  • The two prime movers in the Universe are Time and Luck. [2]
  • True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.
  • We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.
  • We're not too young for love, just too young for about everything there is that goes with love.
  • Life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information.
  • The practice of art isn't to make a living. It's to make your soul grow.
    • A Man Without a County
  • You realize, of course, that everything I say is horseshit.
  • Future generations will look back on TV as the lead in the water pipes that slowly drove the Romans mad.

Misattributed

  • Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich's June 1, 1997 column, commonly referred to as "Wear sunscreen", was widely attributed to a commencement address made by Kurt Vonnegut at M.I.T.

See also

External links

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