An uneven assemblage of memoir and writing advice that will interest devoted readers of Vonnegut’s work.



Seminal views and guidance on writing from Kurt Vonnegut Jr., freely annotated by a former workshop student.

Vonnegut is best remembered for his novels such as Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five. However, during a career that spanned more than five decades, he also published several autobiographical essay collections, and much of this writing referenced the writing craft. In this latest posthumous work, a project that was commissioned by the Vonnegut Trust, McConnell—a former Vonnegut student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently a writing instructor and author—has drawn from a hefty assortment of Vonnegut’s writing, including letters, essays, speeches, and lectures, to structure her thematic chapters around Vonnegut’s views on the inspiration, mechanics, and profession of writing. Taken together, the chapters paint an expansive portrait of Vonnegut’s life and career, with examples of how personal experiences often directly contributed to his work. A profound example was his experience as a prisoner of war during the World War II firebombing of Dresden, which he brilliantly recounted in Slaughterhouse-Five. “That event, and others, fueled his writing and shaped his views,” writes McConnell. “(It did not, however, as is often assumed, initiate it. He was already headed in the direction of being a writer when he enlisted.)” Though much of his writing is served up as fragmented bits to support the choppy narrative, for the most part Vonnegut’s practical advice and acerbic humor remain richly articulated. He stresses the need to be entirely passionate about whatever the subject matter is and to bring as much clarity to the writing as possible, which is accomplished mainly through extensive revisions. The downside of McConnell’s approach is that too often her own voice intrudes on Vonnegut’s lessons. In fact, her writing comprises nearly half of the book, and with frequent references to her own opinions on writing and teaching, she stretches her role beyond what would seem appropriate for such an annotated collection.

An uneven assemblage of memoir and writing advice that will interest devoted readers of Vonnegut’s work.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60980-962-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Seven Stories

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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