In 1967, Kurt Vonnegut corresponded with magazine writer and novelist Richard Gehman, who was about to head off to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop to start a teaching gig. Vonnegut, who taught at the Workshop from 1965 to 1967, had many tips to share.
Practical: “Use the Cedar Rapids airport instead of the Iowa City airport! Fly United instead of Ozarks!” Personal: “Forget your lack of credentials! The University is perfectly used to barbarians in the Workshop.” Professional: “Vance [Bourjaily] is a poor teacher.” Interpersonal: “Run with the painters. I did. The best guy in Iowa City is painter Byron Burford.”
Vonnegut also seemed to know his audience; he told Gehman, who eventually married multiple times: “Don’t ball undergraduates! Their parents are still watching!”
While Vonnegut, who died in 2007, never wrote an autobiography, he did leave letters—lots of them. The new book Kurt Vonnegut: Letters contains many previously unpublished missives from the author, who seems incapable of writing a boring paragraph.
TODAY IN SLATE
The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola
The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.
Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.
Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore
And schools are getting worried.
Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War
Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough
So they added a little self-immolation.