happy birthday kurt vonnegut

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Happy belated birthday to Mr. Kurt Vonnegut. 

“Nothing means anything — except the artist makes his living by pretending, by putting it in a meaningful hole, though no such holes exist.”

Vonnegut talks to a class at NYU about writing, the death of his parents, being tough, and The Big Space Fuck. 

Happy birthday, Kurt Vonnegut (November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007).

In remembrance of the satirical author, here’s an audio clip of him reading an excerpt from Slaughterhouse-Five, a section featuring his alter-ego, Billy Pilgrim, who has come unstuck in time.

NPR’s Renee Montagne spoke to Vonnegut in 2003 about the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, by British bombers towards the end of World War II. Slaughterhouse Five is based on his own experience as an eyewitness to the aftermath. 

Then, spend a few minutes listening to NPR host Peter Sagal’s account of how he fell in love with Kurt Vonnegut’s writing as a teen.

Here is perhaps one of Vonnegut’s best quotes, from his first novel, Player Piano, as read aloud by NPR’s Andrea Seabrook on All Things Considered in 2008.

I want to stay as close on 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. Big, undreamed-of things — the people on the edge see them first.

So it goes.

Related: Vonnegut Expressed Skeptical Nature with Humor

A Look Back at the Life and Work of Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut on the Role of Satire

Vonnegut on the Lost Art of Short Stories

Kurt Vonnegut Judges Modern Society

Photo credit: Chris Felver, Getty Images

America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: 'if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.

—  Kurt Vonnegut

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

Happy Birthday, Kurt Vonnegut. 

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.
— 

Kurt Vonnegut

Happy birthday sir. You are a wise one. 

Kurt Vonnegut self-portrait (Indianapolis Public Library)

“And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.”
Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

Happy Birthday, Kurt! (November 11, 1922)