Archives for posts with tag: Slaughterhouse Five

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In 1949, Kurt Vonnegut sent three writing samples to Atlantic Monthly — hoping for publication or a writing assignment. Instead, he received the following letter:

Dear Mr. Vonnegut,

We have been carrying out our usual summer house-cleaning of the manuscripts on our anxious bench and in the file, and among them I find the three papers which you have shown me as samples of your work. I am sincerely sorry that no one of them seems to us well adapted for our purpose. Both the account of the bombing of Dresden and your article, “What’s a Fair Price for Golden Eggs?” have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance.

Our staff continues fully manned so I cannot hold out the hope of an editorial assignment, but I shall be glad to know that you have found a promising opening elsewhere.

Faithfully yours,
Edward Weeks

From one of the rejected writing samples (‘account of the bombing in Dresden”), Vonnegut developed his masterwork Slaughterhouse-Five. Toiling away at a variety of jobs (newspaper bureau, General Electric public relations department, Saab dealership) to support his large (and extended) family (six children), 20 years transpired between the Atlantic Monthly rejection and the publication of Slaughterhouse-Five (Delacorte, 1969). Modern Library has ranked the book as the18th greatest novel of the 20th century.

Photo: A first edition of Slaughterhouse-Five issued in 1969, when Vonnegut was still using “Jr.” Signed first editions of the novel currently sell for around $8,000. See this link.

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In 1949, Kurt Vonnegut sent three writing samples to Atlantic Monthly — hoping for publication or a writing assignment. Instead, he received the following letter:

Dear Mr. Vonnegut,

We have been carrying out our usual summer house-cleaning of the manuscripts on our anxious bench and in the file, and among them I find the three papers which you have shown me as samples of your work. I am sincerely sorry that no one of them seems to us well adapted for our purpose. Both the account of the bombing of Dresden and your article, “What’s a Fair Price for Golden Eggs?” have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance.

Our staff continues fully manned so I cannot hold out the hope of an editorial assignment, but I shall be glad to know that you have found a promising opening elsewhere.

Faithfully yours,
Edward Weeks

From one of the rejected writing samples (‘account of the bombing in Dresden”), Vonnegut developed his masterwork Slaughterhouse-Five. Toiling away at a variety of jobs (newspaper bureau, General Electric public relations department, Saab dealership) to support his large (and extended) family (six children), 20 years transpired between the Atlantic Monthly rejection and the publication of Slaughterhouse-Five (Delacorte, 1969). Modern Library has ranked the book as the 18th greatest novel of the 20th century.

Trivia Tidbit: In 1970, Slaughterhouse-Five was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards — losing out in both competitions to Ursula K. Le Guin‘s The Left Hand of Darkness.

Photo: A first edition of Slaughterhouse-Five issued in 1969, when Vonnegut was still using “Jr.” Signed first editions of the novel currently sell for around $8,000. See this link.

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I have always been a Kurt Vonnegut fan — he was one of the first writers I really, truly, completely loved. After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the first thing I did was run out and buy a new copy of Slaughterhouse-Five, then go home and read it from cover to cover without moving from my spot.

For whatever reason — and there were many — this was my response to the horror. I wanted to see how a great artist had dealt with horror (in his case, his presence at the firebombing of Dresden during WWII) and how he had been able to express what had happened.

And then, a miracle. I learned that Kurt Vonnegut would be in Chicago (where I then lived) to give a lecture at the public library (he was in town to accept a literary award) just a few weeks later.

Yes, I was in the same room with Kurt Vonnegut — and he was as wonderful, witty, and warm as you’d imagine. Of course, people in the audience asked what he felt about what had happened on September 11th. I don’t remember exactly what he said. I was overwhelmed with emotion at the time — and could only think of what he’d written in Slaughterhouse-Five:So it goes.”

Thank you, Kurt. Thank you. Thank you. For me, “So it goes” is not a call to complacence, it is a call to live noble lives, despite it all. We will try to follow your fine example. God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.