If This Isn't Nice, What Is? Advice to the Young
A selection of Kurt Vonnegut's best speeches, edited and introduced by Dan Wakefield.
After the publication of his novel Slaughterhouse-Five brought him worldwide acclaim in 1969, Kurt Vonnegut became one of America's most popular graduation speakers. There were years when public speaking was his main source of income, and he put a great deal of thought and preparation into the things he said and also in his presentations. "We are performing animals" is one of Vonnegut's trademark sayings, and he took it to heart when he found himself before an auditorium filled with college seniors about to enter the world as members of the citizenry, hopeful of being gainfully employed, adults with their school days now finally behind them. Vonnegut was a very, very funny graduation speaker. At the same time, he conveys in these speeches something of the seriousness, of the momentousness of life too. He tells stories and jokes, invokes the figures who inspire him the most--Jesus, Eugene Debs, Bertrand Russell, Jazz historian Albert Murray, and Vonnegut's friend Joseph Heller among many others. Perhaps most importantly, he acts like the young people he is speaking to are going to go out into the world and make a difference. These nine college commencement addresses have never been collected before in a book. Together, they show us a side of Vonnegut--personable, brave, provocative, intimate, loving--that is consistent with but different from the Vonnegut of his books. A bit like Mark Twain, also a noted public speaker, folksy, an actor as well as a writer.
About Kurt Vonnegut
KURT VONNEGUT (1922–2007) was among the few grandmasters of twentieth-century American letters, one without whom the very term American literature would mean much less than it does now. Vonnegut's other books from Seven Stories Press include God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, the national hardcover and paperback bestseller A Man Without a Country, and, with Lee Stringer, Like Shaking Hands with God.