Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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Here is an entirely new side of Kurt Vonnegut, Vonnegut as a teacher of writing. Of course he's given us glimpses before, with aphorisms and short essays and articles and in his 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 writing art and craft, altogether a healing, a nourishing expedition. 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 we can all benefit as a result.

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—fourteen 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 and readers and Vonnegut fans everywhere.

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Buying options

November05

The art and craft of writing by one of the few grandmasters of American literature, a bonanza for...

New York, NY
7.30pm
The Strand Bookstore
November09

Author, editor and writing teacher Suzanne McConnell was a student of Kurt Vonnegut’s at...

Woodstock, NY
4.30pm
The Golden Notebook
November16

Author, editor and writing teacher Suzanne McConnell was a student of Kurt Vonnegut’s at...

Sag Harbor, NY
5.00pm
Canio's Bookstore

“I hate getting advice, personally. This is not that kind of book—it complains grumpily about the discomfort required to write truthfully and it celebrates the long history of art as “a very human way of making life more bearable.” In short, it reminds us of the important things. Suzanne McConnell takes us eloquently into the joys of rediscovering Vonnegut, in a guide that will be profoundly useful to writers thinking about fiction’s purposes as well as its methods.”

“Pity us not at all! What could be more welcome than Kurt Vonnegut’s acerbic writing advice expertly illuminated by veteran teacher/writer/editor Suzanne McConnell. A timely book for writers, readers, teachers and book-lovers alike. It’s unsentimental, unvarnished, and 100% treacle-free. If you’ve longed to be under Vonnegut’s spell once again, this is the book for you.”

“A love song for the writing life by one of the world’s finest humanist writers, Kurt Vonnegut’s wry and compassionate voice is given a resonant echo chamber here by the wise and abidingly respectful presence of his former graduate student, Suzanne McConnell. Part homage, part memoir, and a 100% guide to making art with words, Pity the Reader: Writing With Style is a simply mesmerizing book, and I cannot recommend it highly enough!”

“Irresistible, big-hearted and helpful to writers at whatever stage of their craft or their life. This is such a rich, generous book about writing and reading and Kurt Vonnegut as writer, teacher, and friend, that I find myself at a loss for the right good words. It’s a breeze to read. Every page brings pleasure and insight. It captures the spirit of the man some of us were lucky enough to know and gives future generations a sense of him as a teacher and writer. It traces how Vonnegut grew as a writer and how his writing took shape. I have read it three times now and find it not only a meticulous homage and worthy memorial to a great human being and a lasting writer, but a true help, for all of us at any age, who yearn to write with style.”

“This book is a wonderful way of eavesdropping into the mind of one of the greatest writers in American history. The blend of memory, fact, keen observation, spellbinding descriptiveness and zany characters that populated Vonnegut’s work is on full display here, in a kind of workshop forum, with explanations by the writer himself, as recorded by a fellow writer, McConnell, who knew Vonnegut for decades. The result is Vonnegut as we’ve never seen him before, a man of kindness and generosity, humility and extraordinary introspection, whose humor and creativity served as a kind of protectorate, a shield, and most importantly a fountain of creativity to quench his life-long thirst for a better, kinder planet. It’s a must read for any young writer.”

“Taken together, the chapters paint an expansive portrait of Vonnegut's life and career, with examples of how personal experiences often directly contributed to his work.”

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Born in 1922 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Kurt Vonnegut was one of the few grandmasters of modern American letters. Called by the New York Times “the counterculture’s novelist,” his works guided a generation through the miasma of war and greed that was life in the U.S. in second half of the 20th century. After stints as a soldier, anthropology PhD candidate, technical writer for General Electric, and salesman at a Saab dealership, Vonnegut rose to prominence with the publication of Cat’s Cradle in 1963. Several modern classics, including Slaughterhouse-Five, soon followed. Never quite embraced by the stodgier arbiters of literary taste, Vonnegut was nonetheless beloved by millions of readers throughout the world. “Given who and what I am,” he once said, “it has been presumptuous of me to write so well.” Kurt Vonnegut died in New York in 2007.

Other books by Kurt Vonnegut