Vonnegut Volunteers for the JFK Campaign, 1960

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
April 29 2013 11:25 AM

Vonnegut Volunteers for the JFK Campaign, 1960

The Vault is Slate's new history blog. Like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter @slatevault; find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

 In this short letter from 1960, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. volunteers to work for the campaign of candidate John F. Kennedy.

Writing in a plain style, Vonnegut describes his writing career up to that point, quickly glossing his work in PR for General Electric and as a reporter, and describing himself as “a freelance” of ten years’ experience. (Other jobs from that period of his life that he doesn’t mention: teacher for special-needs kids, owner of a Saab dealership.)

Advertisement

By 1960, Vonnegut had written two novels, Player Piano (1952) and The Sirens of Titan (1959), but doesn’t mention them by name.

Vonnegut, a lifelong progressive, responded to Kennedy’s optimistic vision. Later in life, when asked about the space program in an interview in Playboy, he gave Kennedy credit for its inspirational power, saying of the President: “He was a tough, joyful athlete and he loved to win. And it wasn’t a bad guess, really, that this might cheer Americans up and make us more energetic.”

It doesn’t seem that Vonnegut ended up working for the Kennedy campaign (or, at least, the JFK library’s archive doesn’t contain a response to this letter, and two Vonnegut biographies don’t mention it).

As the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s Stacey Chandler notes, the best line in the letter has to be the modest “On occasion, I write pretty well.”

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

There Are New Abuse Allegations Against Adrian Peterson

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

John Oliver Pleads for Scotland to Stay With the U.K.

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police

The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 1:51 PM Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.