Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse-Five among many others, seems like a much better author when you’re young. There is a close link between idealism and cynicism, both of which are characteristic of the young and both of which are necessary to appreciate Vonnegut’s dark humor. I remember reading him as a college student with great excitement and appreciation. But now. . . it’s just not the same. Still, you have to appreciate his wit, and an affection lingers.
“Unsettling business for an artist, where everything that happens in New York has universality, and everything that happens outside is ethnography.”
The term paper, he tells his writing students, should be “both cynical and religious.”
“The secret of good writing is caring.”
“No picture can attract serious attention without a human being attached to it in the viewer’s mind. . . . Pictures are famous for their human-ness and not their picture-ness.”
“I saw The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which I took very hard. To an unmoored, middle-aged man like myself, it was heartbreaking. That’s all right. I like to have my heart broken.”
To his son, Mark: “I ask a favor for your mother’s sake: please look awfully nice at your graduation. She is a dear, romantic girl, and I want her to be as happy as she can possibly be at the graduation of her only son. . . .I am talking about hair, of course.”
“Story-telling is a game for two, and a mature storyteller . . . is sociable, a good date on a blind date with a total stranger, so to speak.”