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(Letters of Note)   In 1973 Drake High School burned 32 copies of Slaughterhouse-Five in its furnace. Here is the letter Kurt Vonnegut wrote to their school board   (lettersofnote.com) divider line 287
    More: Hero, Drake High School, Kurt Vonnegut, Lists of American writers, Purple Heart  
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38154 clicks; posted to Main » on 30 Mar 2012 at 1:09 PM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-03-30 02:20:55 PM
I enjoy reading. I remember reading Catcher and the Rye on some Florida car trip as a teen. After reading the letter, I will pick up another book by Kurt twenty years later. Any recommendations?

/pretty sure Florida is one big highway.
 
2012-03-30 02:20:58 PM

Wise_Guy: I think you were disqualified for the terrible joke.


I can buy that. It was pretty funny when I was 14. Especially since it was impromptu.

xria: Surely you should realise that bad language, nudity and sex are unnatural and evil, you should have stuck with violence, bigotry and hypocrisy, which are much safer territory.


I do now. :)
 
2012-03-30 02:21:01 PM
That was beautifully written.

I'm curious about how the letter found its way into public circulation. Vonnegut states in the letter that he made no copies, and that the copy held by the recipient was the only one in existence. Did Vonnegut keep a copy for his own records, or did the recipient release the letter to the media? Does anyone have any idea?
 
2012-03-30 02:25:59 PM

Devo: I enjoy reading. I remember reading Catcher and the Rye on some Florida car trip as a teen. After reading the letter, I will pick up another book by Kurt twenty years later. Any recommendations?

/pretty sure Florida is one big highway.


My top favs are "Cat's Cradle" and "Welcome to the Monkey House" (bunch of short stories). But "Man without a Country" was really good too. That one isn't a story but a collection of articles that he had written.

"[This] may be as close as Vonnegut ever comes to a memoir."
-Los Angeles Times
 
2012-03-30 02:26:59 PM
That was awesome.
 
2012-03-30 02:27:39 PM

nmiguy: "eduction"??? really? A world class author, well known to the world and he misspells "education"? No wonder they burned his books.


eduction [ɪˈdʌkʃən]
n
1. something educed
2. the act or process of educing
3. (Engineering / Mechanical Engineering) the exhaust stroke of a steam or internal-combustion engine Compare

e·duce (-ds, -dys)
tr.v. e·duced, e·duc·ing, e·duc·es
1. To draw or bring out; elicit. See Synonyms at evoke.
2. To assume or work out from given facts; deduce.

any questions?
My first thought was the same as yours
 
2012-03-30 02:28:22 PM

Mishno: Was "Slaughterhouse Five" the book where he talks about firemen calling their buddies over to the ladder for a view of the "wide open beaver", or was that another of his books? I could see a high school english teacher having a problem with that. It didn't really add anything to the story ,either.

I read all of his books up until whatever followed "God bless you Mr. Rosewater". Vonnegut got kind of boring for me after that. Or maybe I grew too stupid to appreciate him...whatever.


The book you're thinking of is Breakfast of Champions. The first Vonnegut I ever read. I picked it up sometime soon after 9/11 and loved how the political commentary in a 30 year old book was still relevant.

tallguywithglasseson: Found the response of English teacher


Sounds like a good teacher.
 
2012-03-30 02:28:34 PM

Oznog: Never read it. I read the synopsis of it and it's baffling to me how this could be remotely readable sci-fi, unless it's a playful parody of the sci-fi genre itself. Let's just make a story that jumps all over different settings for no good reason, with no sensible explanation... because, fark you, readers, I don't OWE you an explanation. I don't owe you anything, because I'm THAT awesome of a writer! Sounds like a way to dodge responsibility for resolving a plotline in a satisfying way.

I suppose in 1969, standards were a bit different and bringing in Nazis was "daring" on the part of the writer. Now, it's cliche. Then we eventually bring in weird-named aliens as magical fairy people to somehow rescue the storyline, by being fundamentally weird.

Ah, but there's swearing in it. And some kind of sex. How revolutionary. That will make me change the way I see the world, yes. IF I lived in 1969 and had never seen the word "fark" or "shiat" written down in printed media.


Thanks for the review of the book you never read. Do you have any thoughts on movies you never saw? I'm sure we'd all be interested.

By the way, can you crush your testicles with a hammer? We'd like to try and keep the gene pool clean.
 
2012-03-30 02:29:27 PM

This text is now purple: crispyone: Most overrated writer in history

You misspelled "William Golding"


You misspelled "J. D. Salinger"
 
2012-03-30 02:29:50 PM

honk if you demand satisfaction: CliChe Guevara: Danger Mouse: So where did this copy come from? I find it hard to belive that McCarthey who was burnign the books actually saved the letter?

To all the people asking this, RTFA or RTFT. It came from vonneguts own papers. it was found after he died, and reprinted in a biography.

Actually, he published it himself in his non-fiction collection "Palm Sunday". It says so right in TFA...and I verified it by grabbing my copy off the shelf.


Thank you, kind sir or madam.

It shouldn't have taken 100 posts of to state something that was so easy to figure out. Fark, you have insulted me with your ignorance.

(again)
 
2012-03-30 02:30:46 PM
Too bad Kurt didn't post it to a wider audience.
 
2012-03-30 02:30:52 PM
Slaughterhouse Five was a great book. Vonnegut is awesome. Didn't know he was a veteran. Learn something every day I guess.
 
2012-03-30 02:31:09 PM

kim jong-un: Ban the shory skinny author, but Dolph Lundgren's HP slash fanfic is sacrosanct.


Why are you picking on Dolph Lundgren particularly? The man has a master's degree in chemical engineering. Give him some respect.
 
2012-03-30 02:31:41 PM

NDP2: Where did you live and how long ago was this? I participated in and judged high school debate and speech tournaments during the 80s and you could say "crap" and pretty much everything short of "shiat" and "fark" back then. (This was notably apparent in the pieces used for dramatic interpretation.)

/Former debate team wonk.


Early 80's and the debate was in Louisiana. Need I say more?
 
2012-03-30 02:31:46 PM
What is up with dickheads named McCarthy?
 
2012-03-30 02:31:57 PM
Great letter. Moving in certain parts, thanks subby.

I don't know what reminded me of it, but I was thinking of a girl I knew during undergrad who said she had "no use for American literature".

Or of the comments of Horace Engdahl.

Either way, letters like this remind me of how great American writers are both as artists and people.
 
2012-03-30 02:32:29 PM

drxym: Too bad Kurt didn't post it to a wider audience.


He did...as stated above, he published it in his book "Palm Sunday" about 7 years later.
 
2012-03-30 02:32:50 PM

Do the needful: I got basically kicked out/disqualifed during a high school speech tournament. I was in an impromptu speaking competition and I pulled a topic: What do two birds sitting on a wire say to each other. I got everything set up in my speech and then dropped the line: Hey he's finished washing it, let's go take a crap on that car.

After my speech was over I could hear people out in the hallway talking about the kid who said crap during his speech. The horror. I was dq'ed and then told I wasn't welcome for the rest of the competition. I thought my comment was pretty funny at the time, and didn't see the need for the reaction, but you would think I had just kicked a baby.

CSB.


I would have given you a "1" if I was judging that round. Well played!

/awesome Vonnegut, awesome letter
 
2012-03-30 02:33:07 PM

This text is now purple: DeltaPunch: "If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own."

In any case, that was an awesome letter.

Difficulty: Burning a book is itself legitimate political discourse.


These people would agree. (new window)

It's also legitimate to write a private letter to the person responsible and point out what a repressive dick he is.
 
2012-03-30 02:33:25 PM

Mishno: SharkTrager: This text is now purple: crispyone: Most overrated writer in history

You misspelled "William Golding"

You both misspelled Herman Melville.

You're all wrong. The most overrated writer in history is spelled "Ernest Hemmingway".


I used to think so too, then I read "The Old Man and the Sea" while I was on vacation. Damn fine book, that.
 
2012-03-30 02:34:32 PM

crispyone: Most overrated writer in history and now sounds like a whiny-asz bich.


So overrated that you read the letter and then devoted a moment to post in the thread.

You really showed us!
 
2012-03-30 02:35:37 PM

This text is now purple: crispyone: Most overrated writer in history

You misspelled "William Golding"


You both mis-spelled 'L Ron Hubbard'.
 
2012-03-30 02:35:45 PM
I did this, I did that. I fought here, I won that. I wrote this, I taught there.....

Kind of sounds like Kurt Vonnegut needs to get to the gym in 26 minutes.
 
2012-03-30 02:35:56 PM

ArgusRun: This text is now purple: crispyone: Most overrated writer in history

You misspelled "William Golding"

You misspelled "J. D. Salinger"


You misspelled "L. Ron Hubbard."

/overrated by a small group...
//but they're practically religious in their devotion
 
2012-03-30 02:36:21 PM

crispyone: Most overrated writer in history


I'm sorry, did I stumble into a JK Rowling thread? Stephen King, perhaps?

Or are we talking about the committee of advertising copy writers who threw together The Hunger Games?
 
2012-03-30 02:38:21 PM

wearetheworld: I did this, I did that. I fought here, I won that. I wrote this, I taught there.....

Kind of sounds like Kurt Vonnegut needs to get to the gym in 26 minutes.


Yeah, I never heard of that guy - what a loser.

Perhaps his point was that burning his books was not only offensive to intelligent people but utterly useless. His ideas are out there, and you can't destroy them all.
 
2012-03-30 02:39:40 PM

RyansPrivates: Always makes me proud to be an American.


'cause at least you know you're fre
 
2012-03-30 02:40:02 PM

Karma Curmudgeon: Wear sunscreen.


Someone's going to be vitamin D3 deficient...
 
2012-03-30 02:40:13 PM

Great_Milenko: crispyone: Most overrated writer in history

I'm sorry, did I stumble into a JK Rowling thread? Stephen King, perhaps?

Or are we talking about the committee of advertising copy writers who threw together The Hunger Games?


How the fark has no one mentioned Dan Brown?

/shallow and pedantic
 
2012-03-30 02:42:48 PM

louiedog: I still remember walking into the library in Jr. High and seeing the librarian sporting a huge grin as she eagerly read through a novel with a big black marker in her hand, gleefully crossing out the parts that she felt the children shouldn't read. I also remember being in fourth grade during a spelling contest when my teacher asked if anyone had a book with more difficult words for a bonus round to stump those of us who remained. I handed her my copy of Jurassic Park and her first reaction after thumbing through it was glaring at me and telling me that I shouldn't be reading a book with so many naughty words.


Maybe I am just jaded, but I do not recall any "naughty words" in Jurassic Park. A mention or two of "urine", and "penis" once, but nothing that would come up with a quick scan through like you are describing.

And the part about the librarian just sickens me.
 
2012-03-30 02:43:18 PM

medius: RyansPrivates: Always makes me proud to be an American.

'cause at least you know you're fre


e
 
2012-03-30 02:44:38 PM

rufus-t-firefly: wearetheworld: I did this, I did that. I fought here, I won that. I wrote this, I taught there.....

Kind of sounds like Kurt Vonnegut needs to get to the gym in 26 minutes.

Yeah, I never heard of that guy - what a loser.

Perhaps his point was that burning his books was not only offensive to intelligent people but utterly useless. His ideas are out there, and you can't destroy them all.


I got his point. I also now know he is totally awesome. Wonder if he drove a beemer and drank champagne.
 
2012-03-30 02:44:41 PM
My wife's an English teacher in the state. The letter is practically required reading in teachers lounges.

My wife has met the lady who wanted the book banned. She still thinks she was right.

The letter is real. Call the Drake North Dakota School.
 
2012-03-30 02:45:13 PM
This just goes to show that Kurt Vonnegut was a class act.
 
2012-03-30 02:48:04 PM

StaleCoffee: Slaughterhouse Five was a great book. Vonnegut is awesome. Didn't know he was a veteran. Learn something every day I guess.


Slaughterhouse Five is partially based on his experiences. He actually was in Dresden as a POW during the bombing.
 
2012-03-30 02:51:50 PM

Do the needful: I got basically kicked out/disqualifed during a high school speech tournament. I was in an impromptu speaking competition and I pulled a topic: What do two birds sitting on a wire say to each other. I got everything set up in my speech and then dropped the line: Hey he's finished washing it, let's go take a crap on that car.

After my speech was over I could hear people out in the hallway talking about the kid who said crap during his speech. The horror. I was dq'ed and then told I wasn't welcome for the rest of the competition. I thought my comment was pretty funny at the time, and didn't see the need for the reaction, but you would think I had just kicked a baby.

CSB.


Well, the Jane Goodall foundation sued you for the chimp speech also, remember? But she was all cool about it in the end and there were laughs all around.
 
2012-03-30 02:52:12 PM

honk if you demand satisfaction: CliChe Guevara: Danger Mouse: So where did this copy come from? I find it hard to belive that McCarthey who was burnign the books actually saved the letter?

To all the people asking this, RTFA or RTFT. It came from vonneguts own papers. it was found after he died, and reprinted in a biography.

Actually, he published it himself in his non-fiction collection "Palm Sunday". It says so right in TFA...and I verified it by grabbing my copy off the shelf.


So, in other words, Vonnegut lied.
 
2012-03-30 02:52:34 PM

StaleCoffee: Slaughterhouse Five was a great book. Vonnegut is awesome. Didn't know he was a veteran. Learn something every day I guess.


Really? He talked about it all the time, in practically all of his later, more self-referential books.
 
2012-03-30 02:52:54 PM

mitchcumstein1: I would almost consider it an honor to be eviscerated like that by a writer who was as good as Vonnegut.


Hell, I would consider it an honor to be eviscerated by Pocket Ninja. If I ever did something stupid enough to earn a personal reprimand letter from someone as good as Vonnegut I'd frame it and show the world, even if it meant admitting I was an asshat.

/Book burning is legitimate political discourse in the same way that taking a crap on a coffee table is performance art
//If you really hate a book, put it in a box in a garage sale that sells 12 books for a dollar and no one will touch it
 
2012-03-30 02:53:18 PM

crispyone: Most overrated writer in history and now sounds like a whiny-asz bich. Could he be any more but-hurt?

Jeez, I've sold millions of books and you burnt 32 of them!!!


Kurt Vonnegut:World War Two Veteran
Purple Heart Recipient
Prisoner of War
Lived through fire-bombing and complete destruction of Dresden
1967. Guggenheim fellow, Germany.
1970. National Institute of Arts and Letters grant.
1973. L.H.D., Indiana University.
1974. Litt.D., Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
1981. Literary Lion award, New York Public Library.
1981. Eugene V. Debs Award, Eugene V. Debs Foundation; for public service.
1983. Freedom to Read Award, Chicago Public Library.
1985. Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program, ''Displaced Persons.''
1986. Bronze Medallion, Guild Hall.
Raised 7 children

But please, crispyone, do tell us all what you have accomplished and how much greater your achievements are than his. I have read almost everything Kurt Vonnegut wrote. Maybe I have a few of your titles on my shelves? What are they again?
 
2012-03-30 02:53:21 PM
/Boo
 
2012-03-30 02:55:59 PM
I remember reading this in High School, about 8-9 years after the Drake incident. Not only did we get to watch the movie and see Valerie Perrine's nipples, but as a bonus got to hear our teacher quote one of the characters when he said "Nobody farks with Paul Lazzaro!"

Nobody's parents said a thing.
 
2012-03-30 02:56:29 PM

crispyone: Most overrated writer in history and now sounds like a whiny-asz bich. Could he be any more but-hurt?

Jeez, I've sold millions of books and you burnt 32 of them!!!


I can't decide whether you're a nasty little troll or merely an idiot.
 
2012-03-30 02:57:13 PM
An interesting article from that area that goes into great detail on the particulars of the book burning. The kids in the class wanted to keep the book, with some of them offering to pay for it--so the school board ordered their lockers searched. Link
 
2012-03-30 03:02:50 PM
Hemingway and Vonnegut are over rated?

DAMN MY TASTE!
 
2012-03-30 03:06:06 PM

crispyone: Most overrated writer in history and now sounds like a whiny-asz bich. Could he be any more but-hurt?

Jeez, I've sold millions of books and you burnt 32 of them!!!


1/10, you misspelled butthurt.
 
2012-03-30 03:07:04 PM

Gunny Highway: Hemingway and Vonnegut are over rated?

DAMN MY TASTE!


Anyone who thinks that writers whose works are enduring are overrated is someone who would probably have a wonderful opinion on writers still producing.
 
2012-03-30 03:07:30 PM
Hmm. This is interesting. A thread that helps me identify people who sympathize with book-burners and attack authors. Thanks, mods!
 
2012-03-30 03:08:43 PM
Jeepers, when I was in highschool in 1973, we had a walk out to protest not having a smoking lounge and we got one.
And we liked it, by bong-o.
/really, we did.
//the 70's were different.
///you pussies nowadays make me sick.
 
2012-03-30 03:08:55 PM

Ranger677: louiedog: I still remember walking into the library in Jr. High and seeing the librarian sporting a huge grin as she eagerly read through a novel with a big black marker in her hand, gleefully crossing out the parts that she felt the children shouldn't read. I also remember being in fourth grade during a spelling contest when my teacher asked if anyone had a book with more difficult words for a bonus round to stump those of us who remained. I handed her my copy of Jurassic Park and her first reaction after thumbing through it was glaring at me and telling me that I shouldn't be reading a book with so many naughty words.


Maybe I am just jaded, but I do not recall any "naughty words" in Jurassic Park. A mention or two of "urine", and "penis" once, but nothing that would come up with a quick scan through like you are describing.

And the part about the librarian just sickens me.


I just searched inside the book on Amazon and about 50 common swear words came up, which isn't that bad for a 415 page book. No farks, mostly hell and some shiats. She must have opened it up and stumbled on just the wrong paragraph or something. I very vividly remember that it was that book because it was just before the movie came out and I was reading it for a second time in excitement. That was my first, "the book was better," movie, but I still loved it.

The librarian thing sticks with me because her husband also worked at the school. He was a science teacher who was an advocate for teaching us about critical thinking and it had a big impact on me. That's what bummed me out so much about it.
 
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