Kurt Vonnegut—Self-assessment

Kurt Vonnegut—Self-assessment

Celebrated author grades his own works

Kurt before Einstein hair, 1964.











In his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story:

1.    Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2.    Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3.    Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4.    Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

5.    Start as close to the end as possible.

6.    Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7.    Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8.    Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Vonnegut qualifies the list by adding that Flannery O’Connor broke all these rules except the first, and that great writers tend to do that. He wrote an earlier version of writing tips that was even more straightforward and contained only seven rules (though it advised using Elements of Style for more in-depth advice).

In The Sexual Revolution,” Chapter 18 of his book Palm Sunday, Vonnegut grades his own works. He states that the grades “do not place me in literary history” and that he is comparing “myself with myself.” The grades are as follows:

Player Piano: B
The Sirens of Titan: A
Mother Night: A
Cat’s Cradle: A-plus
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater: A
Slaughterhouse-Five: A-plus
Welcome to the Monkey House: B-minus
Happy Birthday, Wanda June: D
Breakfast of Champions: C
Slapstick: D
Jailbird: A
Palm Sunday: C

Note: Article originally published elsewhere by Anon.

Who Am I This Time? SARANDON as Helene Shaw and CHRISTOPHER WALKEN as Harry Nash

Did you know this about Vonnegut?

Kurt Vonnegut’s Who Am I This Time? is a 1982 American made-for-television comedy-drama film directed by Jonathan Demme and based on the 1961 short story of the same name. It is the fourth episode of the first season of PBS’ American Playhouse series which aired on February 2, 1982.

Christopher Walken plays a shy hardware store employee. But whenever he takes a part in a local amateur theater production, he becomes the part completely–while on stage. Susan Sarandon is new in town, a lonely itinerant telephone company employee.

(Credit Image: c Rubicon Film Productions/Entertainment Pictures)

And Kurt Vonnegut Jr. shares a birth date with another of the world’s most popular literary figures, Fyodor Dostoevsky.