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Pity the Reader: On Writing With Style

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The art and craft of writing by one of the few grandmasters of American literature, a bonanza for writers and listeners written by Kurt Vonnegut's former student. Here is an entirely new side of Kurt Vonnegut, Vonnegut as a teacher of writing. Of course, he has given us glimpses in his aphorisms, short essays, articles, and speeches. But, never before has an entire book The art and craft of writing by one of the few grandmasters of American literature, a bonanza for writers and listeners written by Kurt Vonnegut's former student. Here is an entirely new side of Kurt Vonnegut, Vonnegut as a teacher of writing. Of course, he has given us glimpses in his aphorisms, short essays, articles, and speeches. But, never before has an entire book been devoted to Kurt Vonnegut, the teacher. Here is pretty much everything Vonnegut ever said or wrote having to do with the art and craft of writing - Plus - a wonderful, healing/nourishing expedition, of which McConnell has outfitted us for the journey, and in these 37 chapters, covers the waterfront of how one American writer brought himself to the pinnacle of the writing art; and the result only serves to benefit us. Kurt Vonnegut was one of the few grandmasters of American literature, whose novels continue to influence new generations about the ways in which our imaginations can help us to live. Few aspects of his contribution have not been plumbed - 14 novels, collections of his speeches, his essays, his letters, his plays - so this fresh view of him, written by a former student, is a bonanza for writers, readers, listeners and Vonnegut fans everywhere. ©2019 Trust u/w of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (P)2019 Highbridge, a division of Recorded Books


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The art and craft of writing by one of the few grandmasters of American literature, a bonanza for writers and listeners written by Kurt Vonnegut's former student. Here is an entirely new side of Kurt Vonnegut, Vonnegut as a teacher of writing. Of course, he has given us glimpses in his aphorisms, short essays, articles, and speeches. But, never before has an entire book The art and craft of writing by one of the few grandmasters of American literature, a bonanza for writers and listeners written by Kurt Vonnegut's former student. Here is an entirely new side of Kurt Vonnegut, Vonnegut as a teacher of writing. Of course, he has given us glimpses in his aphorisms, short essays, articles, and speeches. But, never before has an entire book been devoted to Kurt Vonnegut, the teacher. Here is pretty much everything Vonnegut ever said or wrote having to do with the art and craft of writing - Plus - a wonderful, healing/nourishing expedition, of which McConnell has outfitted us for the journey, and in these 37 chapters, covers the waterfront of how one American writer brought himself to the pinnacle of the writing art; and the result only serves to benefit us. Kurt Vonnegut was one of the few grandmasters of American literature, whose novels continue to influence new generations about the ways in which our imaginations can help us to live. Few aspects of his contribution have not been plumbed - 14 novels, collections of his speeches, his essays, his letters, his plays - so this fresh view of him, written by a former student, is a bonanza for writers, readers, listeners and Vonnegut fans everywhere. ©2019 Trust u/w of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (P)2019 Highbridge, a division of Recorded Books

51 review for Pity the Reader: On Writing With Style

  1. 5 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    Kurt Vonnegut was not only a prolific writer and a highly respected human being but one who made rules and mostly broke them. Suzanne McConnell is one of Vonnegut’s former students from his period of teaching at Iowa Writer’s Workshop. They remained friends until his death. Until this book came along, only small fragments of Vonnegut’s teaching—including his philosophies and other worlds of thought—were available, mainly as short stories which were fragmented throughout time and different Kurt Vonnegut was not only a prolific writer and a highly respected human being but one who made rules and mostly broke them. Suzanne McConnell is one of Vonnegut’s former students from his period of teaching at Iowa Writer’s Workshop. They remained friends until his death. Until this book came along, only small fragments of Vonnegut’s teaching—including his philosophies and other worlds of thought—were available, mainly as short stories which were fragmented throughout time and different publishers. Here, McConnell does not only collate the entire experience that is his writing on writing but also brings to life his oeuvre as a teacher and a human being. One of the main boons of this book is McConnell’s exquisite, funny, and daring way to comment on everything throughout the book. Her comments often provide valuable insights into Vonnegut’s process for thinking, mashing, drafting, and finalising his material. I believe that 60% of the book is Vonnegut and 40% McConnell. From the book: You probably met Vonnegut also through reading his books, assigned in high school or college or read independently, depending on your age. If you read Slaughterhouse-Five, the most well known, you also know the experience that drove him to write that book because he introduces it in the opening chapter: as a twenty-year-old American of German ancestry in World War II, he was captured by the Germans and taken to Dresden, which was then firebombed by the British and Americans. He and his fellow prisoners, taken to an underground slaughterhouse, survived. Not many other people, animals, or vegetation did. It’s easy to see how Vonnegut’s dry and black humour has either mixed with or matched that of McConnell’s; I adore it, and cannot count the number of times that I laughed while reading this book. The book is littered with insight into how knowledgeable, scholarly and also transformable Vonnegut was. He seems to often have provided gleaming trinkets of truth that upended a lot that was fashionable then and still is today. Imagine switching the names Keruouac and Hemingway for Franzen and…well, Kardashian in the following paragraph: “We’ve come to the point where we’re more interested in looking at the scrolls of Kerouac than reading Kerouac. The same with Hemingway’s home in Key West.” Fetishism of famous writers, he suggested, occurs because “it’s such heavy-lifting to actually read books.” There are quite a lot of interesting bits here, where both Vonnegut, McConnell, and other interesting people are thrown into the mix. Some reviewers dismissed Kurt Vonnegut’s writing for being too simple. John Irving criticized Vonnegut’s critics. They think, Irving wrote, that “if the work is tortured and a ghastly effort to read, it must be serious,” whereas “if the work is lucid and sharp and the narrative flows like water, we should suspect the work of being simplistic, and as light and as lacking in seriousness as fluff. This is simplistic criticism, of course; it is easy criticism too. “Why is ‘readable’ such a bad thing to be these days?” Some people “are gratified by the struggle to make sense of what they read . . . I am more often gratified by a writer who has accepted the enormous effort necessary to make writing clear.” Vonnegut criticized lit critics too. They wrote “rococo argle-bargle,” he once said. That’s one of the best insights, in regards to reviewers, that I’ve ever seen. It seems that Vonnegut spent quite some thought and action on trying to get his students—and anybody, really—to know that their writing, their action, their thoughts, were as valid as anybody else’s: Novelists are not only unusually depressed, by and large, but have, on the average, about the same IQs as the cosmetics consultants at Bloomingdale’s department store. our power is patience. We have discovered that writing allows even a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time. There are short bursts of beauty: Kurt advised John Irving, who was working on his first novel, “that I was interested in a certain young woman’s underwear to an excess of what my readers would be.” Irving revised it accordingly, but “Not to the degree that I probably should have . . . But he also said I wrote with so much enthusiasm. He told me, Never lose that enthusiasm. So many writers are unenthusiastic about their work. McConnell calls Vonnegut out on his sexism; he wasn’t intentionally sexist or harmful, she writes, but learned from being called out back in the day: Such blind spots, to phrase it most benignly, occur in every culture. You may harbor some yourself. Sexism, racism, ageism, nationalism. Homophobia. Political and regional prejudices. Your teachers, being human, will have such blind spots. They may not, as Vonnegut’s own mentor did not, recognize your value, remember you, or care about you. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. It doesn’t mean they themselves are evil. The blind spot itself, though, is. An insidious, damaging wrongdoing, undermining confidence and selfhood. one upside: consciousness soars with obvious abuse. Four pieces of advice: recognize the blind spot. Call it out. Keep your eyes on your own prize. expect change. People and times do change. raggedly, incrementally. Vonnegut changed too. “The women’s liberation movement of today in America,” Vonnegut wrote in 1981, “in its most oceanic sense, is a wish by women to be liked for something other than their reproductive abilities. . . . And the rejection of the equal rights Amendment by male state legislators is this clear statement by men, in my opinion: ‘We’re sorry, girls, but your reproductive abilities are about all we can really like you for.’” Late in his life Kurt sent me postcards and clippings about women’s issues. Vonnegut’s playfulness shone through everything, even though he was able to stay on the ball with his acute sense of worth. Throughout his work, Vonnegut conjured and indicated words. [dr. ed Brown] coined a new word for Sylvia’s disease, “Samaritrophia,” which he said meant, “hysterical indifference to the troubles of those less fortunate than oneself.” Vonnegut comes alive through this book, and in spite of being such an intense ride, I just feel like reading more and more of his written words. We all have a lot to learn from his pathos, methods, and, mainly, the ways through which he always broke all rules. There is no shortage of wonderful writers. What we lack is a dependable mass of readers. This book is wonderful. I suggest that you purchase a copy at once.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Annarella

    A well written, well research and informative book about an author I love. There were great insight and it's well researched and full of food for thought. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC, all opinions are mine.

  3. 5 out of 5

    GONZA

    This book could be summed up as if "On Writing" had been written by Groucho Marx. Jokes aside, I do not know Kurt Vonnegut so much, I read some of his books but he is not one of my favorite author, still his student Suzanne McConnell gave us such a deep knowledge of her teacher, that it seems like he is a friend of mine right now. I am not so interested in writing a book right now, but if you are, this good is one of the best place to start. Se dovessi riassumere in breve questo libro, direi che This book could be summed up as if "On Writing" had been written by Groucho Marx. Jokes aside, I do not know Kurt Vonnegut so much, I read some of his books but he is not one of my favorite author, still his student Suzanne McConnell gave us such a deep knowledge of her teacher, that it seems like he is a friend of mine right now. I am not so interested in writing a book right now, but if you are, this good is one of the best place to start. Se dovessi riassumere in breve questo libro, direi che sembra quasi "On writing" scritto da Groucho Marx. A parte gli scherzi non sono una grande esperta di Vonnegutt, ma la sua studentessa (ed autrice del libro) Suzanne McConnell ci fornisce uno spaccato cosí intenso della vita del suo professore, che mi sembra quasi sia un amico ora. Inoltre, in questo momento scrivere un libro non mi interessa particolarmente, ma se dovessi farlo, questo volume é un ottimo punto di partenza. THANKS EDELWEISS FOR THE PREVIEW!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Zachary Houle

    One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was from Kurt Vonnegut. I forget where I read it — perhaps a book of writerly advice in the form of letters to other writers — but it has stuck with me. It goes something like this: Don’t wait until page 17 or your story or novel to divulge an important detail, do it right up front on page 1. That bit has stayed with me, as I don’t know how many novels I’ve read that breaks that rule, much to my frustration. While Vonnegut was clearly a writer One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was from Kurt Vonnegut. I forget where I read it — perhaps a book of writerly advice in the form of letters to other writers — but it has stuck with me. It goes something like this: Don’t wait until page 17 or your story or novel to divulge an important detail, do it right up front on page 1. That bit has stayed with me, as I don’t know how many novels I’ve read that breaks that rule, much to my frustration. While Vonnegut was clearly a writer of the 20th century, some things of his have staying power. He much wasn’t one for fancy writing, or writing that was hard to read for the sake of making the author look intelligent and the work said author has produced as being important. Vonnegut was, it seems, a pretty down-to-earth writer and person. We need that more than ever. While it has been more than a decade since Vonnegut passed on to the life beyond this life, people still want to read him — or publishers think so. I recall reading and reviewing a set of his complete short stories bound into one volume a couple of years back. Other posthumous collections have come and gone, and, now, we get a collection of his writing advice to other writers co-authored by one of his former students, Suzanne McConnell, who was taught writing by Vonnegut in an MFA program in Iowa in the mid-‘60s. Pulled from novels, drafts, speeches, interviews and more, Pity the Reader is a compendium of no-fuss advice put together into 37 different chapters — a feat that took four years to complete. Read the rest of the review here: https://medium.com/@zachary_houle/a-r...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Marie

    This is a great book for a fan of Vonnegut. Unfortunately, it can't decide what kind of book it wants to be: biography, academic study, or writing advice. The result is a muddled product. I had trouble staying interested, and it felt like the author jumped around in their stories and points they were trying to make. The tone was also inconsistent, sometimes being overly casual, others very rigid and academic. I'd recommend this for someone interested in Vonnegut's life and work, but not as much This is a great book for a fan of Vonnegut. Unfortunately, it can't decide what kind of book it wants to be: biography, academic study, or writing advice. The result is a muddled product. I had trouble staying interested, and it felt like the author jumped around in their stories and points they were trying to make. The tone was also inconsistent, sometimes being overly casual, others very rigid and academic. I'd recommend this for someone interested in Vonnegut's life and work, but not as much for the average writer looking for advice. I received an ARC from the publisher, and it was clear that it was before final formatting. There were many issues reading on Kindle, but because it was an early copy, I tried not to take that into consideration with my rating, but it's worth noting how confusing the order and style was.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mr. Dietz

    A charming companion to Vonnegut’s bibliography, and a compelling collection of writerly advice. It’s a dense text, stuffed with anecdotes and reproductions and excerpts. Aspiring writers could find worse models to guide their process. Vonnegut was absolutely the man, and I need to invest some more of my time in his fiction very soon.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Actually written by Vonnegut’s friend and student Suzanne McConnell, this book is probably best suited for fiction writers who are also avid Vonnegut readers. McConnell amplifies and explains Vonnegut’s words and works to inspire writers and enlighten readers.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lisbeth Mizula

    A wonderful reference book for writers & for insights into the Vonnegut the writer. Makes a perfect, page-a-day inspirational read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Russell

    Kurt Vonnegut on writing as expressed by his student Suzanne McConnell. The ideas were Vonnegut's, with quotes and excerpts by him, with explanation by McConnell.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Darlene Dunn

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  12. 4 out of 5

    Aaron J. Clark

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alice Robb

  14. 4 out of 5

    David Tull

  15. 4 out of 5

    Storie Chastain

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael Schmidt

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amber Hadigan

  18. 4 out of 5

    W.H. (Wade)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  20. 5 out of 5

    Conor

  21. 4 out of 5

    John

  22. 4 out of 5

    Walter Schoenly

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chelsae

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jaena Rae

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

  28. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  29. 5 out of 5

    Abby

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ahliah

  31. 4 out of 5

    Roof Beam Reader (Adam)

  32. 5 out of 5

    James

  33. 4 out of 5

    Jess Janisse

  34. 5 out of 5

    blair corbett

  35. 4 out of 5

    rabbitprincess

  36. 5 out of 5

    Jess

  37. 4 out of 5

    Justin Smith

  38. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  39. 5 out of 5

    R. W.

  40. 5 out of 5

    Kurtis

  41. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Hicks

  42. 5 out of 5

    Travis

  43. 5 out of 5

    Jeffery Laudenslager

  44. 4 out of 5

    Mike Williams

  45. 5 out of 5

    Karen White

  46. 4 out of 5

    Mallory

  47. 4 out of 5

    Marissa

  48. 4 out of 5

    Sean

  49. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Smith

  50. 5 out of 5

    Vrushali

  51. 5 out of 5

    Seth Mattei

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