Thursday, June 9, 2016

Kurt Vonnegut's Letter To the Students of Xavier High School, New York City

We usually post on Vonnegut in relation to his work in General Electric's P.R. department but this past weekend I happened to be at the LoN website and saw this.

From Letters of Note:
In 2006, a group of students at Xavier High School in New York City were given an assignment by their English teacher, Ms. Lockwood, that was to test their persuasive writing skills: they were asked to write to their favourite author and ask him or her to visit the school. It’s a measure of his ongoing influence that five of those pupils chose Kurt Vonnegut, the novelist responsible for, amongst other highly-respected books, Slaughterhouse-Five; sadly, however, he never made that trip. Instead, he wrote a wonderful letter. He was the only author to reply.

(Huge thanks to Michael LiVigni, headmaster of Xavier High School, for his help and permission to feature this letter. Thanks, also, to the Estate of Kurt Vonnegut. This letter can also be found in the More Letters of Note book, which can now be found on the shelves of all respectable, well-stocked bookshops. More info and reviews can be found here.)

The most famous of the LoN letters, To My Old Master, is also worth a look 

Back to Vonnegut. Here are some pics from a 2005 photoshoot where he is indeed starting to develop  the iguana look he writes about in the letter a year later.

Here is one of our Vonnegut mentions, from 2014, a snippet of an interview with Brown University's Robert Scholes:

What's New In News: General Electric Becomes a Content Provider (GE)
...Scholes: Kurt, to begin with, I am curious myself about how you got involved in this business of writing. Did you always mean to be a writer?
Kurt: No, well, I think it was the only out for me. I had a very disagreeable job at General Electric, and this was an out.
Scholes: Are there agreeable jobs at General Electric?
Kurt: Oh yes, I think there are. I think president of General Electric is a very agreeable job, and also chairman of the board.
Scholes: And the rest of them, though, are more or less disagreeable.
Kurt: Well, I was quite low on the rungs of advancement there, and I was selling stories to Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post and was very happy to leave rather than to get to the top the hard way....
-A Talk with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Robert Scholes/1973
In The Vonnegut Statement, ed. Jerome Klinkowitz and John Sorrier.
New York: Delacorte/Seymour Lawrence, 1973, pp. 90-118.
Reprinted with the permission of Delacorte/Seymour Lawrence