Earlier this year Seven Stories Press published If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?, a collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s commencement speeches. In this guest post, New Hampshire Poet Laureate Alice B. Fogel shares with us a commencement speech she gave in which KV figures prominently among the “heroes” who have influenced her life.
Three surgeries, five hospital stays, several months of intravenous food, a digestive system that gave up the ghost. A year off work—a terrible way to win an extended vacation.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., in a commencement address at Bennington College in 1970, recounts how as a young man he was very optimistic about the promise of science to improve human life, thanks in part to his older brother, Bernard, who was an accomplished atmospheric scientist.
Writer Mary Kuykendall, whose short story “Mabel Disabled” is featured below, once worked for General Electric in Schenectady, as did Kurt Vonnegut. While she was not at GE while Vonnegut was employed there as a public relations writer, the Vonnegut influence in “Mable Disabled” is clear. Although she never met KV, she did meet his brother Bernard.
Kurt Vonnegut has remained a favorite author of mine for over forty years. The first book of his that I read was Mother Night, then followed by Slaughterhouse-Five, then Breakfast of Champions… I was so impressed by his writing that I started looking for as many of his books as I could find, and read them, then read them again, and again.
Ask any friend of mine to provide a few details about me, and my affinity for Kurt Vonnegut would never slip past the third listed item. Despite this, I was late to the clambake, so to speak, relative to many other Vonnegut fans and scholars.