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 The new book Kurt Vonnegut: Letters contains many previously unpublished missives from the author, who seems incapable of writing a boring paragraph.