Happy Birthday, Kurt Vonnegut!

Kurt Vonnegut, who would have been 91 years-old today, made tremendous contributions to the world of literature. And as fans are quick to point out, the lessons we can learn from Vonnegut’s vision of the world exist beyond the pages of his fiction. Here are some excellent resources to help you celebrate the legacy of Vonnegut and embrace the wisdom he offered us.

1. BrainPicker lists some of Vonnegut’s best fatherly advice: In a letter to his daughter Nanette, Vonnegut writes “I think it’s important to live in a nice country rather than a powerful one. Power makes everybody crazy.” In another letter, after he advises her to learn to speak a foreign language and to play a musical instrument, Vonnegut writes “What makes this advice especially hollow and pious is that I am not dead yet. If it were any good, I could easily take it myself.”

2. Kurt Vonnegut lectures on the simple shape of stories (Video): To help writers and readers understand story arcs, Vonnegut elegantly shows us what “Cinderella” really looks like.

3. Letters of Note shares Vonnegut’s instructions on how to “experience becoming”: In 2006, Vonnegut responded to a letter from a NYC high school student. He advises the boy and his peers to “Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”


4. The Huffington Post collects 8 pieces of advice from Vonnegut’s novels and beyond: With wisdom from his essays, interviews, and fiction, the HuffPo corralled some of the best advice Vonnegut gave in any form. Here’s his thoughts on the importance of reading: “I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.”

5. Vonnegut’s 8 lessons on how to write a good short story: Short and simple lessons to create short fiction your reader will enjoy and understand. For example, you should with just one reader in mind, because “if you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

6. Vonnegut’s 8 lessons on writing with style: In this essay Vonnegut gives 8 pieces of advice on how and why to improve your writing style. Why should you care? “If you scribble your thoughts any which way, your readers will surely feel that you care nothing about them.”


More Like This

How Kurt Vonnegut Predicted the Automation Crisis

67 years ago, "Player Piano" warned us that big tech was coming for our jobs

Aug 14 - Arvind Dilawar

What Kurt Vonnegut Can Teach Us About Coping with the Internet

Now that our past can never die, we have to live more like four-dimensional aliens

Feb 12 - Jaya Saxena

Kurt Vonnegut Walks Into a Bar

Terry McDonell recalls how the legendary writer handled his Scotch and his fans.

Jul 11 - Terry McDonell
Thank You!