Tag: KurtVonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut

Why I Got Kurt Vonnegut Tattooed on My Arm

When I was twelve-years-old I read Slaughterhouse-Five for the first time. I was absolutely enthralled, I had never read anything like it. I didn’t know you could write like that. Conversationally, controversially, about real life and an infinite universe all in one. I’m not sure what made more of an impression on lil ol’ me: the voice or the real-world-but-slightly-suspicious atmosphere, but I was into it. Really into it.

 

So into it, that when I was twenty-years-old, Vonnegut’s signature and self portrait became a permanent part of me.

 

My Vonnegut tattoo

If I have a single regret about this tattoo, it’s that it’s impossible to photograph. 

 

The University of Houston’s creative writing program is small, competitive, and renowned. As such, you’ve gotta put together an impressive twenty page portfolio for your application. My submission, which five years later looks completely different, was the story of my first period and how Jack Nicholson bought me tampons and showed me how to use them. It’s based in fact, but I definitely took some creative liberty. One of my favorite professors later told me it was “the best submission he had read that semester”, but that’s neither here nor there.

 

That’s one of the lessons Kurt (that’s what I call him) taught me – write what you know, but make it intriguing. 

 

When I was younger I would lie to my mother just because it was more interesting than the truth. She indulged me because it was only ever the small stuff, never anything that really mattered. At thirteen, when I didn’t want to tell her who I was going to the movies with (Morgan, male, who, a decade and a cross-country move later, is still in my core group), I alleged my ongoing relationship with a forty-year-old, heavily-tattooed biker named Snake. Snake stuck around through high school where he helped me out with unsupervised parties and dates with boys my mother wouldn’t approve of. A few years ago, I overheard a gorgeous bearded and tattooed biker introduce himself as Snake. My long con finally got interesting. 

 

Alongside eavesdropping and people watching, one of my favorite hobbies is blatantly lying to people I will never meet again. I don’t consider it lying, though. It’s more an exercise in creativity. I like to see just how ridiculous and unbelievable the words coming out of my mouth can get before I’m called out on my bullshit. In 2012, I didn’t have time for a costume change after a spectacularly formal affair (my own debutante ball) and the entire bar was lead to believe I had just been left at the altar and collectively paid for me to black out on White Russians. To be fair, I was wearing a wedding dress so my tale was particularly convincing.

 

Kurt Vonnegut isn’t the only voice-driven author I unknowingly formed my own writer’s identity around: Chuck Palahniuk, Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski, and George Saunders are on that list. They all run in a similar circle. They’re open and honest and unapologetically themselves.

 

And whether or not I meant to, that’s what I became. I write like I talk, and I talk like I think, but I never learned how to think before I speak and I have a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept “too much information”. You could call me intense. I like to joke that I go full psycho from the beginning, that way no one can ever accuse me of not being myself. That’s something that stands true for all aspects of my life. I listen to my gut and follow my emotions and interests where they lead me, and they lead me to some pretty interesting places, thoughts, and people.

 

Life as we know it is incredibly beautiful, but it’s also miserable, and there’s no reason why that misery can’t also be beautiful. We’re alive for a blink of an eye, in the cosmic scale of things, so there’s no reason to avoid the often unavoidable misery (and beauty) of life. 

 

I got Kurt Vonnegut tattooed on my arm because of how I felt that first time I read Slaughterhouse-Five, or Cat’s Cradle, or Hocus Pocus. Because of that sense of wonder and excitement and inspiration. Because I finally opened my eyes and saw the world for what it is and what it could be, and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. Because “the universe is a big place, perhaps the biggest,” and you can close your eyes and explore each and every crevice of it without ever getting up from your chair. I got Kurt Vonnegut tattooed on my arm because I wanted to carry that happiness around with me, and now I do.

 

My Vonnegut tattoo

Seriously, this is the clearest photo I have of it “in context”.

 

And as a bonus, here are ten of my favorite Vonnegut-isms, from me to you…

 

1. “Listen. All great literature is about what a bummer it is to be a human being.”

From “Cold Turkey,” In These Times, 2004.

 

2. “People need good lies. There are too many bad ones.”

From an interview with Wilfrid Sheed in LIFE, September 12, 1969, republished in Conversations with Kurt Vonnegut, 1988.

 

3. “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” 

From the introduction to Mother Night, 1961.

 

4. “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning to do afterward.”

From Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage, 1981.

 

5. “All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental.” 

From the epigram of Timequake, 1997.

 

6. “Anything can make me stop and look and wonder, and sometimes learn.”

From Cat’s Cradle: A Novel, 1963.

 

7. “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”

From Player Piano: A Novel, 1952.

 

8. “That is how you get to be a writer, incidentally: you feel somehow marginal, somehow slightly off-balance all the time.”

From Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage, 1981.

 

9. “You can’t write novels without a touch of paranoia. I’m paranoid as an act of good citizenship, concerned about what the powerful people are up to.”

From an interview with Israel Shenker in The New York Times, March 21, 1969.

 

10. “Writers get a nice break in one way, at least: They can treat their mental illnesses every day.”

From an interview with Playboy, July 1973.

 

Featured image via Indy Star. 

Kurt Vonnegut

Check out Five Never-Before-Seen Kurt Vonnegut Short Stories!

Dan Wakefield and Jerome Klinkowitz have been hard at work at the Lilly Library at Indiana University, working on a comprehensive volume of Kurt Vonnegut’s short fiction. Wakefield, a friend of Vonnegut’s, and Klinkowitz, a scholar of the author’s work, recently discovered (and published!) five previously unpublished stories.

 

‘The Drone King’, one of the previously unpublished stories, is available to read online at The Atlantic.

 

The Drone King

Image via Neatorama.

 

Wakefield and Klinkowitz’s Complete Stories was released earlier this week, so you don’t have to wait to read the rest of Vonnegut’s new work! The pair organized the ninety-eight stories that make up the book thematically, with “War,” “Women,” “Science,” “Romance,” “Work Ethic versus Fame and Fortune,” “Behavior,” “The Band Director,” and “Futuristic”. The stories take us through Vonnegut’s entire career, from 1941 to his death in 2007, including work published in magazines and in previous collections like Welcome to the Monkey House

 

Featured image via Consequence of Sound.

Margaret Atwood Playboy

14 Iconic Authors Bare It All in Playboy Without Taking Their Clothes Off

Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no denying the effect Hefner’s work has had on both the literary and publishing worlds. In memoriam of Hugh Hefner’s life and career, we’ve put together a list of some of the most notable authors and interviews published in Playboy to prove that yes, some people really do read it for the articles. 

 

Margaret Atwood Playboy

I had so much fun making the featured image that I couldn’t not also make a full cover. Enjoy. / Image Via The New Yorker, Photoshopped by yours truly.

 

If you’ve got a subscription to Playboy, be sure to check out the Playboy Archive for digital copies of magazines ranging from 1954 to 2007.

 

1. An Interview with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Image via Wikipedia

 

In 1964, just after he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sat down with Alex Haley for a series of interviews, which were then edited together for the magazine’s January 1965 issue. The interview is the longest interview King gave to a publication. Ever. King speaks of his observations of the Civil Rights Movement (at that point) and the first time he remembered experiencing racism. He was forced to stand on a bus, not too dissimilar to Rosa Parks’ story, which later inspired him to stage a bus boycott. 

 

2.  Haruki Murakami, author of Norwegian Wood

 

Haruki Murakami

Image via Time Magazine

 

Japan’s most popular author and one of the “world’s greatest living novelists”, Haruki Murakami has written bangers like Norwegian Wood, 1Q84, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Kafka on the Shore. ‘The Second Bakery Attack‘, first published in 1992, was later published in a collection of short stories called The Elephant Vanishes: Stories.

 

3. Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse-Five

 

Kurt Vonnegut

Image via Wikipedia

 

Vonnegut first appeared in Playboy in a 1973 interview. Most notably, though, the magazine was the first to publish an excerpt from Armageddon in Retrospect, Vonnegut’s first posthumous collection. The collection features several new short stories, a letter Vonnegut wrote to his family during his time as a prisoner of war in World War II, drawings, and a speech written shortly before his death.

 

4. Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road

 

Jack Kerouac

Image via CMG Worldwide

 

Playboy published two of Kerouac’s stories during his lifetime: Before the Road, a short story prequel to On the Road published in 1959, and 1965’s Good Blonde.

 

5. Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451

 

Ray Bradbury

Image via Wikipedia

 

During the first years of Playboy’s life their budget only allowed for reprinted stories, and in 1954 they published a serialized version of Fahrenheit 451. ‘The First Night of Lent’, Bradbury’s first original story for the publication in 1956, was among the first previously unpublished stories the magazine sent to print.

 

6. Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale.

 

Margaret Atwood

Image via The New Yorker

 

Atwood’s first foray into Playboy was in 1991 with the publication of ‘The Bog Man’. ‘The Bog Man’ recounts the discovery of a 2,000 year old man during a trip between a Canadian student and the married archaeology professor she is in love with. Atwood’s other works published in Playboy include The Bad News (2006) and The Age of the Bottleneck (2008).

 

7. Gabriel García Márquez, author of Love in the Time of Cholera

 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Image via Inspire Portal

 

Published in 1971, Marquez’s short story ‘The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World‘ is about a ridiculously handsome dead body that washes up onto shore and enchants an entire village. If you’re unfamiliar with Marquez’s work, I absolutely recommend A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings.

 

8. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels

 

Ian Fleming

Image via Ian Fleming

 

According to John Cork, founding member of the Ian Fleming Foundation, “by 1960 Ian Fleming, James Bond, and Playboy magazine became a nearly synonymous cultural force, truly united with Playboy‘s publication of [Fleming’s story] The Hildebrand Rarity.” Fleming’s 11th book, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was published simultaneously as a hardcover in Britain and serialized in Playboy from April to June 1963.

 

9. Roald Dahl, author of The BFG, The Witches, and many others

 

Roald Dahl

Image via Penguin Books

 

Dahl’s only non-children’s book, My Uncle Oswald, was based on ‘The Visitor’, a story written for and published in Playboy in May of 1965. You wouldn’t think a beloved children’s author would fit in with the publication but Dahl describes main character Oswald as “the greatest fornicator of all time”, so. Dahl’s first original story for Playboy was ‘A Fine Son’, published in 1959.

 

10. Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22

 

Joseph Heller

Image via Biography.com

 

Heller refers to his short story ‘Yossarian Survives’ (published in Playboy in 1987) as a lost chapter of Catch-22. The story describes Yossarian’s training at Lowry Field Air Force base in Denver, Colorado. Fans interested in reading this ‘lost chapter’ can find it in Catch As Catch Can: The Collected Stories and Other Writings.

 

11. Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club

 

Chuck Palahniuk

Image via Chuck Palahniuk

 

Palahniuk is no stranger to getting published in Playboy, but I’m including him for a reason very close-to-home. When I was twelve-years-old, rifling through my best friend’s stepfather’s magazines, I found what would eventually become one of my favorite short stories. Palahniuk’s controversial short story ‘Guts was first published in the March 2004 issue of Playboy. ‘Guts’ is part of Palahniuk’s short story collection Haunted: A Novel.

 

12. Hunter S. Thompson, father of Gonzo journalism

 

Hunter S. Thompson

Image via Rolling Stone 

 

The Great Shark Hunt graced Playboy‘s pages in 1973 and was later published in a book of autobiographical essays of the same name. Over his career, Thompson’s work appeared in Playboy on a number of occasions.

 

13. Truman Capote, author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories.

 

Truman Capote

Image via Mom Advice

 

In the January 1984 issue of Playboy, Capote retold some of the most outrageous stories from friend and playwright Tennessee Williams’s life. It wasn’t the first time Capote was featured in the magazine. He was also the subject of a 1968 interview about his writing career, the role of Jewish writers in the American literary scene, and his views on capital punishment.

 

14. An Interview with Joyce Carol Oates, author of 56 novels, and a lot more.

 

Joyce Carol Oates

Image via Lewis Center for the Arts

 

The 1993 interview calls Oates:

 

one of the most prolific writers in America. Her critics even complain that she writes too much. She has written more novels than Nobel laureate Saul Bello, more short story collections than John Updike, more books of essays than Norman Mailer, more words of poetry than Emily Dickinson and more plays than Chekhov. Critic Harold Bloom considers her “our true proletarian novelist.”

 

Featured image via The New Yorker, improved via my own photoshop abilities.

surgery

These 7 Writers Started With Very Different Careers

Some of the greatest books ever written were written by accountants. Or lawyers, or construction works. The decisions you make as a little tyke don’t necessarily have to dictate who you’ll always be. Here are some of our favorite writers who did not always think they’d end up as writers, including debut novelists Isabelle Ronin and Leah Weiss! 

 

1. Kurt Vonnegut owned a car dealership

 

Saab dealership

Image Via Digital Dealer

 

Before his groundbreaking novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut had a tough time supporting his family. He worked as a journalist for Sports Illustrated, and a PR exec for General Electric. Probably most bizarrely, though, he owned a Saab dealership in Massachusetts.

 

Regarding this part of Vonnegut’s life, his daughter, Edie Vonnegut, said, “We were part of presenting this very elegantly designed piece of technology and it felt very sophisticated. It felt more about art and cutting edge design than about cars.” It doesn’t seem too out of character if you think about it.

 

2. George Saunders worked as a geophysicist and swam in monkey shit

 

George Saunders location

Image Via Metro

 

Probably one of the most famous contemporary short story writers (who published his debut novel Lincoln in the Bardo this year, which is amazing), Saunders got his career start as a field geophysicist working on the Indonesian island Sumatra.

 

Saunders’s time as a field geophysicist didn’t last more than a couple years, though. He retired early after “swimming in a river that was polluted with monkey shit” and getting sick. But the writing didn’t immediately start then. Saunders then worked as “a doorman, a roofer, a convenience store clerk, and a slaughterhouse worker.” What a life.

 

3. Leah Weiss worked as an executive assistant for twenty-four years before writing her first book

 

Leah Weiss and If the Creek Don't Rise

Image Via Amazon

 

Just last month, Weiss published her insanely good debut novel If the Creek Don’t Rise. What’s crazy is she didn’t start writing until she was fifty-years-old. Before she got into writing, she worked as an executive assistant to the headmaster at Virginia Episcopal School. She did that for twenty-four years! At seventy-four-years-old, after a full career as an executive assistant, Weiss has published her first novel. Let that be a call to action for anybody feeling discouraged.

 

4. Stephanie Danler was (pretty unsurprisingly) a waitress

 

Waitress

Image Via Meld Magazine

 

Danler’s debut novel Sweetbitter focuses on Tess, who has just moved to New York and lands a job in an upscale restaurant. She is subsequently sucked into the world of wine, food, drugs, sex, and love. Danler’s previous occupation? Unsurprisingly, it was that of server at an upscale restaurant. She actually met her editor while serving him. She now has a two book deal, a huge fanbase, and a TV adaptation of Sweetbitter on the way, produced by none other than Brad Pitt. 
 

 

5. Isabelle Ronin studied nursing before writing called her away

 

Isabelle Ronin and Chasing Red

Image Via Amazon

 

Isabelle Ronin was studying to be a nurse before her Wattpad story Chasing Red became an international sensation. Ronin was born and raised in the Philippines and moved to Canada when she was twenty. Her family were very traditional, and she was raised with traditional expectations—to graduate college, get married, and start a family. She found herself jumping from one thing to the next, looking for something about which she felt passionate. She settled on nursing for a time, however dropped out to pursue writing. Once she focused on that, she told Bookstr, it was magic. 

 

6. Bram Stoker was a crazy actor’s personal assistant

 

PA

Image Via Get Magic

 

The creator of Dracula was better known during his life time as actor Hentry Irving’s personal assistant and manager of London’s Lyceum Theatre than a writer. Henry Irving was reportedly extremely famous and extremely mad. He thought Dracula was dreadful and refused to appear in any adaptations of it. Before his PA life, Stoker received his degree in maths, worked in civil service at Dublin Castle, and wrote some unpaid reviews of plays. 

 

7. Arthur Conan Doyle was a ship surgeon off the coast of West Africa

 

surgeon

Image Via Asonor

 

Like John Watson, the fictitious narrator of the Holmes tales, Doyle was a surgeon during the 1880s. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, and served as a surgeon aboard the ship SS Mayumba during a voyage on the coast of West Africa. When he returned, he started taking his writing career more seriously. In 1887, A Study in Scarlet was published and he became known for his Holmes stories. Oh, and he tried to become an ophthalmologist in the 1890s. He failed. He was bad at it.

Feature Image Courtesy of Amazon/Vanity Fair

Top 10 Classical Novels That Received Dreadful Reviews

 

Most of us have grown so accustomed to classical works of novelists being regarded as the epitome of literary excellence that we become unaware of the problematic aspects of these stories. Even the most beautifully written and well-arranged prose can suffer under the bitter scrutiny of critical minds. For these enduring works of literature that have lasted decades or even centuries, their initial response were not always positive. 

 

Here is a collection of some of the harshest and most scathing commentaries well-known authors have received. The titles mentioned are not listed in any particular order.

 

1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

 

Via Amazon

Image Courtesy of Amazon

 

Catch-22 has much passion, comic and fervent, but it gasps for want of craft and sensibility… Its author, Joseph Heller, is like a brilliant painter who decides to throw all the ideas in his sketchbooks onto one canvas, relying on their charm and shock to compensate for the lack of design… The book is an emotional hodgepodge; no mood is sustained long enough to register for more than a chapter.” — Richard G. Stern, The New York Times Book Review, 1961

 

2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

 

Amazon

Image Courtesy of Amazon

 

“But the most conspicuous lack, in comparison with the classics of the fearsome-future genre, is the inability to imagine a language to match the changed face of common life. No newspeak. And nothing like the linguistic tour de force of A Clockwork Orange – the brutal melting-down of current English and Slavic words that in itself tells the story of the dread new breed. The writing of The Handmaid’s Tale is undistinguished in a double sense, ordinary if not glaringly so, but also indistinguishable from what one supposes would be Margaret Atwood’s normal way of expressing herself in the circumstances. This is a serious defect, unpardonable maybe for the genre: a future that has no language invented for it lacks a personality. That must be why, collectively, it is powerless to scare.” — Mary McCarthy, The New York Times, February 9, 1986

 

3. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

 

Via Goodreads

Image Courtesy of Goodreads

 

“At a conservative estimate, one million dollars will be spent by American readers for this book. They will get for their money 34 pages of permanent value. These 34 pages tell of a massacre happening in a little Spanish town in the early days of the Civil War…Mr. Hemingway: please publish the massacre scene separately, and then forget For Whom the Bell Tolls; please leave stories of the Spanish Civil War to Malraux…” — Commonweal, 1940

 

4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

 

Via Amazon

Image Courtesy of Amazon

 

“This Salinger, he’s a short story guy. And he knows how to write about kids. This book though, it’s too long. Gets kind of monotonous. And he should’ve cut out a lot about these jerks and all that crumby school. They depress me.” — James Stern, The New York Times, 1951

 

5. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

 

Via Goodreads

Image Courtesy of Goodreads

 

“The short, flat sentences of which the novel is composed convey shock and despair better than an array of facts or effusive mourning. Still, deliberate simplicity is as hazardous as the grand style, and Vonnegut occasionally skids into fatuousness…” — Susan Lardner, The New Yorker, May 17, 1969 Issue

 

6. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

 

Via Goodreads

Image Courtesy of Goodreads

 

Lolita then, is undeniably news in the world of books. Unfortunately, it is bad news. There are two equally serious reasons why it isn’t worth any adult reader’s attention. The first is that it is dull, dull, dull in a pretentious, florid and archly fatuous fashion. The second is that it is repulsive… 

Past the artistic danger line of madness is another even more fatal. It is where the particular mania is a perversion like Humbert’s. To describe such a perversion with the pervert’s enthusiasm without being disgusting is impossible. If Mr. Nabokov tried to do so he failed.”  — Orville Prescott, The New York Times, August 18, 1958

 

7. Ulysses by James Joyce

 

Via Literary Hub

Image Courtesy of Literary Hub

 

Ulysses appears to have been written by a perverted lunatic who has made a speciality of the literature of the latrine… I have no stomach for Ulysses… James Joyce is a writer of talent, but in Ulysses he has ruled out all the elementary decencies of life and dwells appreciatively on things that sniggering louts of schoolboys guffaw about. In addition to this stupid glorification of mere filth, the book suffers from being written in the manner of a demented George Meredith. There are whole chapters of it without any punctuation or other guide to what the writer is really getting at. Two-thirds of it is incoherent, and the passages that are plainly written are devoid of wit, displaying only a coarse salacrity [sic] intended for humour.” — Aramis, The Scandal of Ulysses in The Sporting Times, April 1, 1922

 

8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

 

Via Livejournal

Image Courtesy of LiveJournal

 

“How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors.” — Graham’s Lady’s Magazine, July 1848

 

“We rise from the perusal of Wuthering Heights as if we had come fresh from a pest-house. Read Jane Eyre is our advice, but burn Wuthering Heights.” — Paterson’s Magazine, February 1848

 

“What may be the moral which the author wishes the reader to deduce from his work, it is difficult to say; and we refrain from assigning any, because to speak honestly, we have discovered none but mere glimpses of hidden morals or secondary meanings. In Wuthering Heights the reader is shocked, disgusted, almost sickened by details of cruelty, inhumanity, and the most diabolical hate and vengeance, and anon come passages of powerful testimony to the supreme power of love—even over demons in the human form. The women in the book are of a strange fiendish-angelic nature, tantalising, and terrible, and the men are indescribable out of the book itself.”  — Douglas Jerrold’s Weekly Newspaper, January 15, 1848

 

9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

Via Vanity Fair

Image Courtesy of Vanity Fair

 

 

“Let us hope that One Hundred Years of Solitude will not generate one hundred years of overwritten, overlong, overrated novels.” — Jonathan Bate, The Telegraph,  Sep 25, 1999

 

10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Via Vanity Fair

Image Courtesy of Vanity Fair

 

“Altogether is seems to us this book is a minor performance. At the moment, its author seems a bit bored and tired and cynical.  There is no ebullience here, nor is there any mellowness or profundity. For our part, The Great Gatsby might just as well be called Ten Nights on Long Island.” — Ralph Coghlan, St. Louis Dispatch, April 25, 1925

 

Despite the dissatisfaction as manifested in the bitter remarks of critics, these classical works survived through generations and earned a highly-esteemed ranking on modern readers’ minds. It is only normal that a piece of prose should elicit mixed responses and sometimes stir dissonance between reviewers and readers. Depending on social and cultural factors, even if certain artistic efforts are not entirely appreciated upon its initial release, they may still have a chance or success and see to the light of day in the future.

 

Feature Image Courtesy of Amazon/Vanity Fair

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