Kurt Vonnegut interview in the Paris Review

In the 1977 issue of the Paris Review, Kurt Vonnegut reworked an interview of himself by David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, and Richard Rhodes. Basically, after the interview was transcribed, he fixed his answers. “Indeed, what follows can be considered an interview conducted with himself, by himself.” If you like Vonnegut, this is a good read.

On why he wrote Slaugherhouse Five:

All my friends were home; they’d had wonderful adventures, too. I went down to the newspaper office, the Indianapolis News, and looked to find out what they had about Dresden. There was an item about half an inch long, which said our planes had been over Dresden and two had been lost. And so I figured, well, this really was the most minor sort of detail in World War II. Others had so much more to write about. I remember envying Andy Rooney, who jumped into print at that time; I didn’t know him, but I think he was the first guy to publish his war story after the war; it was called Air Gunner. Hell, I never had any classy adventure like that. But every so often I would meet a European and we would be talking about the war and I would say I was in Dresden; he’d be astonished that I’d been there, and he’d always want to know more. Then a book by David Irving was published about Dresden, saying it was the largest massacre in European history. I said, By God, I saw something after all! I would try to write my war story, whether it was interesting or not, and try to make something out of it. I describe that process a little in the beginning of Slaughterhouse Five; I saw it as starring John Wayne and Frank Sinatra. Finally, a girl called Mary O’Hare, the wife of a friend of mine who’d been there with me, said, “You were just children then. It’s not fair to pretend that you were men like Wayne and Sinatra, and it’s not fair to future generations, because you’re going to make war look good.” That was a very important clue to me.

But also this:

VONNEGUT I said that only one person on the entire planet benefited from the raid, which must have cost tens of millions of dollars. The raid didn’t shorten the war by half a second, didn’t weaken a German defense or attack anywhere, didn’t free a single person from a death camp. Only one person benefited—not two or five or ten. Just one.
INTERVIEWER And who was that?
VONNEGUT Me. I got three dollars for each person killed. Imagine that.

Kurt Vonnegut interview in the Paris Review

Kurt Vonnegut in Sports Illustrated

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He often said he had to be a writer because he wasn’t good at anything else. He was not good at being an employee. Back in the mid-1950s, he was employed by Sports Illustrated, briefly. He reported to work, was asked to write a short piece on a racehorse that had jumped over a fence and tried to run away. Kurt stared at the blank piece of paper all morning and then typed, “The horse jumped over the fucking fence,” and walked out, self-employed again.

I looked in the SI Vault and couldn’t find anything written by Vonnegut, but this anecdote is reported widely around the web.

Maybe there will be more evidence at the memorial library opening soon in Indy.

Via Brian Sample

Kurt Vonnegut in Sports Illustrated

Kurt Vonnegut’s Letter Home

After getting captured by German soldiers, made into a POW, and then being abandoned by the German prison guards (the bombing of Dresden was in there somewhere, too) Kurt Vonnegut wrote a letter home. I always wonder if these guys know they’re writing for future audiences, and how lucky his family kept the letter… The refrain of “But not me” in the letter obviously reminds me of “so it goes” from Slaughterhouse 5, which, of course, is based on the aforementioned experience.

Via Daring Fireball

Kurt Vonnegut’s Letter Home

Kurt Vonnegut on Why We Create Drama in Our Lives

Derek Sivers has a good post about a Kurt Vonnegut talk he saw a couple years ago where Vonnegut described our desire for drama. He used a chart to graph the plot of a normal work of fiction and then graphed what normal people’s lives look like. Makes sense to me.

The normal disaster story, what we want our lives to be like.
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“But because we grew up surrounded by big dramatic story arcs in books and movies, we think our lives are supposed to be filled with huge ups and downs! So people pretend there is drama where there is none.”

What our lives are ACTUALLY like.
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Kurt Vonnegut on Why We Create Drama in Our Lives