drew toal

Toward the end of his life, the correspondence gets a bit sadder and more self-reflective, as is to be expected. In a few late letters, Vonnegut refers to himself as one of “Melville’s whalers, who didn’t talk anymore because they’d said all they had to say.” By the time he died, in 2007, the writer had outlived his first wife and many friends. In many of the letters, you get the sense that he is just killing time — making silkscreen paintings, writing tributes and blurbs — while waiting for the end.“

If that seems unpleasant, consider it in light of his unsuccessful 1984 suicide attempt. After that booze-and-pill cocktail, he found reason to keep going — and even to impart some wisdom. Kurt Vonnegut: Letters ends, appropriately, with the last words of advice he wrote for an audience: "And how should we behave during this Apocalypse? We should be unusually kind to one another, certainly. But we should also stop being so serious. Jokes help a lot. And get a dog, if you don’t already have one … I’m out of here.”

—  Drew Toal of NPR, in his review of the new collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s letters, appropriately titled Letters.