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A collection of 15 graduation speeches and treasured wisdom from the New York Times–bestselling literary icon and author of Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle, and Breakfast of Champions
"Like [that of] his literary ancestor Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut's crankiness is good-humored and sharp-witted."—A.O. Scott, The New York Times Book Review
Master storyteller and satirist Kurt Vonnegut was one of the most in-demand commencement speakers of his time. His words were unfailingly insightful and witty, and they stayed with audience members long after graduation. Chosen and introduced by fellow novelist and friend Dan Wakefield, a selection of speeches and essays in this expanded 3rd edition include:
• “What to Do When You Have the Power; In the Meantime, Remember to Skylark!”
• “Why Social Justice Does More Than Art to Nourish the American Dream”
• “How to Make Money and Find Love!”
• “Somebody Should’ve Told Me Not to Join a Fraternity”
• “How to Have Something Most Billionaires Don’t”
Hilarious, razor-sharp, freewheeling, and at times deeply serious, these reflections are ideal not just for graduates but for anyone undergoing what Vonnegut would call their “long-delayed puberty ceremony”—marking the long and challenging passage to full-time adulthood.
About the Author
Born in 1922 in Indianapolis, Indiana, KURT VONNEGUT was one of the few grandmasters of modern American letters. Called by the New York Times “the counterculture’s novelist,” his works guided a generation through the miasma of war and greed that was life in the U.S. in second half of the 20th century. After a stints as a soldier, anthropology PhD candidate, technical writer for General Electric, and salesman at a Saab dealership, Vonnegut rose to prominence with the publication ofCat’s Cradle in 1963. Several modern classics, including Slaughterhouse-Five, soon followed. Never quite embraced by the stodgier arbiters of literary taste, Vonnegut was nonetheless beloved by millions of readers throughout the world. “Given who and what I am,” he once said, “it has been presumptuous of me to write so well.” Kurt Vonnegut died in New York in 2007.
A longtime friend of Kurt Vonnegut’s, DAN WAKEFIELD is co-editor with Jerome Klinkowitz of Vonnegut’s Complete Stories, which the New York Times called “a fascinating portrait-of-the-artist-on-the-make in the booming 1950s.” Wakefield also edited and introduced Kurt Vonnegut: Letters. He is the author of the memoirs New York in the Fifties and Returning: A Spiritual Journey. His novel Going All the Way was made into a movie starring Ben Affleck. Dan Wakefield also created the NBC prime time series James at Fifteen. He is currently at work on a YA biography of Kurt Vonnegut for Seven Stories. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.
"If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? is a spectacular read in its entirety, brimming with Vonnegut’s unflinching convictions and timeless advice to the young." —Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
“Like [that of] his literary ancestor Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut’s crankiness is good-humored and sharp-witted.” —A.O. Scott, New York Times Book Review
"Like so much of Vonnegut's work, these speeches combine absurdist humor, pessimism and countercultural politics, with improbably and disarmingly charming results." —Troy Jollimore, Chicago Tribune's Printers Row Journal
"If This Isn't Nice, What Is? is a blast of pure acid." —Entertainment Weekly
"The material here offers us a slightly different lens, a different window, extending across a wide range of time and geography, from Fredonia College in Fredonia New York in 1978 to Eastern Washington University in Spokane in 2004, and framed by not just Vonnegut’s sense of humor but also of humanity, his faith in our essential decency." —David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
"These delightful scattershot commencement speeches offer fresh clues to what lay behind Kurt Vonnegut's twinkly visage—clues that are well worth celebrating." —Peter Matthiessen