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Vonnegut in Fact

The Public Spokesmanship of Personal Fiction

Jerome Klinkowitz

Publication Year: 2012

Vonnegut in Fact offers a thorough assessment of the artistry of Kurt Vonnegut, known not only as the best-selling author of Slaughterhouse-Five, Timequake, and a dozen other novels, but also as the most widely recognized public spokesperson among writers since Mark Twain. Jerome Klinkowitz traces the emergence of Vonnegut's nonfiction since the 1960s, when commentary and feature journalism replaced the rapidly dying short story market. Offering close readings and insightful criticism of Vonnegut's three major works of nonfiction, his many uncollected pieces, and his unique manner of public speaking, Klinkowitz explains how Vonnegut's personal visions developed into a style of great public responsibility that mirrored the growth of his fiction. Klinkowitz views his subject as a gentle manipulator of popular forms and an extremely personable figure; what might seem radically innovative and even iconoclastic in his fiction becomes comfortably avuncular and familiarly American when followed to its roots in his public spokesmanship.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5

Dedication Page

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pp. 6-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Kurt Vonnegut has helped me locate copies of his speeches and some of his harder-to-find essays and reviews, for which I am grateful. I also appreciate his willingness to let me quote his work as I have done in this study. Such quotations come from publications of first appearance except where, ...

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Introduction The Private Person as Public Figure

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pp. 1-9

When on November 1, 1993, Kurt Vonnegut spoke to an overflow crowd at Heritage Hall in the Civic Center of Lexington, Kentucky, he was almost certainly motivated by a principle drawn from Cat's Cradle, his novel published thirty years before. ...

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Chapter One: Emerging from Anonymity

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pp. 10-27

At the beginning of 1969 Kurt Vonnegut was forty-six years old and the author of five novels, two short-story collections, forty-six separately published short stories (in magazines as familiar as Collier's and the Saturday Evening Post), and twenty feature essays and reviews. However, he was almost totally unknown—unknown in public terms, that is. ...

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Chapter Two: Short-Story Salesmanship

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pp. 28-42

"Let me begin by saying. . . ." These are the first published words of Kurt Vonnegut, fiction writer-phrased, appropriately enough, in the terms of public spokesmanship. Then, as would be an effective trick later on in actual public speaking, he breaks one of the form's first rules by making an apology: ...

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Chapter Three: The Road to Wampeters

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pp. 43-59

Kurt Vonnegut came to essay writing near the end of his career as a short fictionist and well after his intentions as a novelist had been established. His most apparent motive for doing such pieces was the same as for his stories: to buy time for writing those novels, since only after seventeen years and on the sixth try would one earn him a living wage. ...

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Chapter Four: Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons

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pp. 60-82

Characteristically, Kurt Vonnegut begins his first collection of nonfiction prose with a preface. And in it he makes the same type of disclaimers that distinguish the preface to his selected short stories, Welcome to the Monkey House. There he had said he was self-taught and could claim no secrets or share any theories about how to succeed in the genre; ...

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Chapter Five: Palm Sunday

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pp. 83-101

If Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons follows the progress of public spokesmanship in the making, Palm Sunday1 displays the presentational talents of a spokesmanship fully formed. Nearly half the materials of the earlier book were written in virtual anonymity, certainly with no thought of their ultimate collection in book form. ...

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Chapter Six: Fates Worse than Death

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pp. 102-110

Kurt Vonnegut's third collection of nonfiction prose1 is called an autobiographical collage as well, but it takes a further step toward seamlessness by forsaking the subject headings that distinguished Palm Sunday. There, most notably in the volume's table of contents, each essay, review, or address retained its original title. ...

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Chapter Seven: A Public Preface for Personal Fiction

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pp. 111-136

Between 1966, when the hardcover edition of his paperback original Mother Night was issued, and 1985, when his eleventh novel, Galápagos, was published, Kurt Vonnegut would begin each of his books with comments indicating his own involvement with the text. In the cases of Happy Birthday, Wanda June and Between Time and Timbuktu, ...


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pp. 137-142


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pp. 143-152


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pp. 153-159

E-ISBN-13: 9781611171273
Print-ISBN-13: 9781570038747

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2012