God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut

A moment of silence please for the man who opened the first Saab dealership in the US. Now that’s quixotic.

To be honest, I prefer God Bless You Mr. Rosewater to the more canonical Slaughterhouse Five but then I’m a sucker for stories about volunteer firemen.

What I remember best about him was his smile. I saw it in action at a workshop he gave at the University of Rhode Island in the late ’70s. For the most part the room was filled with writer-wannabees, the folks who show up asking about agents and trying to find out “the secret” to writing. (The secret is to write. A lot.) Vonnegut showed a wonderful amount of patience through it all, even when he had to explain to one participant who Iago was. He laughed frequently and not at other people. When he smiled he did it with his whole body, bending so he resembled a tall, thin question mark — which is really what he actually was.

The only piece of advice he gave that I remember was throw out the first ten pages of your novel. He said it’s the part that you fall in love with because of the writing and the real book starts on (approximately) page 11. There you have it. The secret. 

The image above is from an exhibit whose description opens: “Kurt Vonnegut writes about this sort of art in ‘God Bless You Mr. Rosewater,’ and maybe you’ve seen some of it yourself?


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