Twain and maybe a little Einstein

Kurt Vonnegut: 'I'm an atheist who preaches'Mark Leiren-Young interviewed Kurt Vonnegut.

None of these quotes have been published before.

But first, Mark comments about achieving his 1990 interview while nervously but thoroughly preparing:

“He said, ‘Hello.’ He may have apologized for the delay. I can’t be sure because that was when he shook my hand and smiled at me. His hand was warm. His grip was friendly, not too tight.

“I realized I should probably call the whole thing off, that I didn’t want to interview him after all. What if he wasn’t the person I wanted him to be? What if he hated me? What if I said something stupid? I wanted to go home and take that warm handshake with me. But it was too late.

“I’d never been better prepared for an interview before and I’ve never been better prepared since.

“When he’d finish speaking, I’d stare blankly, then look down at my list of prepared questions, decide they were stupid and try to come up with something else.”

Vonnegut on easy street

“I had a good job at General Electric as a public relations man. And just writing on weekends I was suddenly making so much more than General Electric was willing to pay me for a whole year. I had a wife and two kids. I didn’t hate General Electric. I admired them back then, I don’t think much of them now. But, anyway, I quit and moved to Cape Cod. That was in 1951. And the magazines were knocked out of business finally by TV, about 1960. The magazines finally died and so I was without a means of supporting my family, but we had been on easy street.”

Vonnegut where the money was

TV. “When TV was just starting out, it was possible for an outsider like me to send in a script and they might produce it. And the industry was very briefly in New York City and so I did sell some TV scripts, three or four of them. One of them was the first dramatic part that Sammy Davis Junior ever had.

Vonnegut on Vonnegut

He barely paused before continuing. “See, I was born in 1922. So was Norman Mailer. And so — roughly speaking — were Gore Vidal, Irwin Shaw and Truman Capote. And we’re the last generation of American writers or Canadian writers whose brains were marinated in books….

Then Mark asked, “one of the only questions I was actually proud of, a question he had to take a beat to think about.”


Vonnegut also said,

“With a liar for president, what is a novelist by comparison?”

Another insight of Vonnegut outside of mainstream tributes and obits, published at the Hartford Advocate.

“One thing I noticed about Vonnegut was his capacity to listen to a person without condescension or impatience. He was game for any conversational subject, from the weather to Bush.

“I got the impression that Vonnegut stayed alive these last four years simply in hopes that he’d live long enough to see Bush and Cheney hang. His anger burned at the thought of these “power-drunk chimpanzees” who treat soldiers “like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.”