Like Shaking Hands with God: A Conversation About Writing
Like Shaking Hands with God details a collaborative journey on the art of writing undertaken by two distinguished writers separated by age, race, upbringing, and education, but sharing common goals and aspirations. Rarely have two writers spoken so candidly about the intersection where the lives they live meet the art they practice. That these two writers happen to be Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer makes this a historic and joyous occasion.
The setting was a bookstore in New York City, the date Thursday, October 1, 1998. Before a crowd of several hundred, Vonnegut and Stringer took up the challenge of writing books that would make a difference and the concomitant challenge of living from day to day. As Vonnegut said afterward, "It was a magical evening."
A book for anyone interested in why the simple act of writing things down can be more important than the amount of memory in our computers.
"The title comes from Stringer's description of writing: 'It's a joy of discovery. I kind of would not like to know what I'm doing. I had a lot of fun trying to figure out how I was going to fill up these pages, and then, convinced that I'm not going to figure it out, bingo! something happens. It's like shaking hands with God. It's really a great payoff for the hours you sit around wondering if you can do what you're trying to do.' Stringer is contributing to four anthologies—two on homelessness, one about depression and one on racism—and writing more memoirs on his earlier life. But writing doesn't get easy: 'I still fear that I have nothing to say, but if I keep my butt in that chair long enough, I'll get somewhere, even if I don't always know where I'm going.'" —USA Today
"Almost everyone I know is a fan of Kurt Vonnegut, and so the colorful and curmudgeonly wisdom he brings to the table here is no surprise. But who is this Lee Stringer guy? By the end, I began to think of him as a superior version of James Frey (author of the badly written pseudo memoir A Million Little Pieces ) with the main difference that Mr. Stringer (1) writes well and (2) his tales about life on Skid Row are true … Based on two conversations between two friends with a lot of respect for each other, these guys are smart, they know how to express themselves, and they've been around the block a few times. The book bills itself as "a conversation about writing" and it is that. But it's more of a conversation about being, but a kind of being that involves writing. For a lot of avid readers, that's a perfect fit." —Essay Writing
"Vonnegut and Stringer are passionate about one another's work, passionate about life, and passionate about writing, but not so much so that they ever, for a moment, lose their sense of irony or humor. In the age of the sound bite, literature can be deemed, on some level, useless. Stringer praises writing, in that context, as 'a struggle to preserve our right to be not so practical.' And Vonnegut? 'We are here on Earth to fart around,' he proclaims in Timequake (excerpted here). 'Don't let anybody tell you any different!'" —Jane Steinberg, Amazon Book Review
About Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer
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.
LEE STRINGER's journey from childhood homelessness in the '60s, to adult homelessness in the '80s, to his present career as a writer and lecturer, as told in Sleepaway School and Grand Central Winter, is one of the great odysseys of contemporary American life and letters. Stringer, the only board member of Project Renewal who is also a former patient of the facility, has demonstrated that writers are made, not born. He is the author with Kurt Vonnegut of Like Shaking Hands with God, and is the two-time recipient of the Washington Irving Award and, in 2005, a Lannan Foundation Residency. He is a former editor and columnist of Street News. His essays and articles have appeared in a variety of other publications, including The Nation, The New York Times, and Newsday. He lives in Mamaroneck, New York, where he also serves on the board of the Mamaroneck Public Libraries.