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Best known as one of America’s most astonishing and enduring contemporary novelists, Kurt Vonnegut was also a celebrated commencement address giver.
Selected and introduced by fellow novelist and friend Dan Wakefield, this much-expanded edition now includes a total of fifteen of Kurt Vonnegut’s speeches. In each of these talks Vonnegut takes pains to find the few things worth saying and a conversational voice to say them in that isn’t heavy-handed or pretentious or glib, but funny and serious and joyful even if sometimes without seeming so. The new material includes-
* Vonnegut’s earliest known commencement address given in 1972 at the State University of New York at Albany;
* A commencement address given at Southhampton College in June of 1981 in which Vonnegut describes the life of one Ignaz Semmelweiss, who saved countless lives by persuading his fellow physicians to wash their hands before touching a patient.
* Writing in Playboy in January of 1984, Vonnegut describes what it is like to be the most censored writer of his time.
* The speech Vonnegut gave in 1992 upon accepting the Humanist of the Year Award from the American Humanist Association, in which he sets out to say what a humanist is and can’t quite decide.
* A piece first published in Cornell Magazine in May of 1994 in which Vonnegut lists some critical things he was never told when he was in college, like not to bother with fraternities or getting drunk or getting a college degree.
* In the last of the new pieces, “An Unsentimental Education” from 1995, Vonnegut reminisces about his early days as a student and new father, copyboy at the Chicago City News Bureau (“One time I found a body”), and novelist. A beautiful and nakedly transparent account of his beginnings in which he says, among many other things, “Culture is a gadget . . .And you can fix it the way you fix a broken oil burner. You can fix it continuously.
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