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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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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