This collection of Vonnegut’s letters is the autobiography he never wrote – from the letter he posted home upon being freed from a German POW camp, to notes of advice to his children: ‘Don’t let anybody tell you that smoking and boozing are bad for you. Here I am fifty-five years old, and I never felt better in my life’. Peppered with insights, one-liners and missives to the likes of Norman Mailer, Gunter Grass and Bernard Malamud, Vonnegut is funny, wise and modest. As he himself said: ‘I am an American fad—of a slightly higher order than the hula hoop’.
Like Vonnegut’s books, his letters make you think, they make you outraged and they make you laugh. Written over a sixty-year period, and never published before, these letters are alive with the unique point of view that made Vonnegut one of the most original writers in American fiction.
This miraculous volume of selected letters provides a moving and revelatory portrait of the famed author of Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle. Organized by decade from the 1940s to the 2000s (Vonnegut died in 2007), the letters chart Vonnegut's life from his service in WWII to his first steps in the world of publishing, his emergence into literary fame, and beyond. The grain of Vonnegut's charming and unmistakable voice is palpable, along with his sense of humor that produces unexpected poetry on almost every page. The private and public Vonneguts both shine, as in his magical letters to his many children, or his painful reflections on divorce, war, and growing older. Elsewhere Vonnegut reveals aspects of his writing process and his philosophy of fiction, and marks his ongoing opposition to violence and censorship. Of particular literary interest are his letters to such authors as Norman Mailer, Anne Sexton, Bernard Malamud, and Jose Donoso. Edited by writer and longtime friend Wakefield, the volume begins with a warm retrospective essay, and each section is prefaced with overviews of each decade of Vonnegut's life, as well as helpful notes to explain his references. Fans will find the collection as spellbinding as Vonnegut's best novels, and casual readers will discover letters as splendid in their own way as those of Keats.