Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons: (Opinions)
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Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons is a rare opportunity to experience Kurt Vonnegut speaking in his own voice about his own life, his views of the world, his writing, and the writing of others. An indignant, outrageous, witty, deeply felt collection of reviews, essays, and speeches, this is a window not only into Vonnegut’s mind but also into his heart.“A book filled with madness and truth and absurdity and self-revelation . . . [Vonnegut is] a great cosmic comedian and rattler of human skeletons, an idealist disguised as a pessimist.”—St. Louis Post-DispatchIncludes the following essays, speeches, and works: “Science Fiction” “Brief Encounters on the Inland Waterway” “Hello, Star Vega” “Teaching the Unteachable” “Yes, We Have No Nirvanas” “Fortitude” “‘There’s a Maniac Loose Out There’” “Excelsior! We’re Going to the Moon! Excelsior!” “Address to the American Physical Society” “Good Missiles, Good Manners, Good Night” “Why They Read Hesse” “Oversexed in Indianapolis” “The Mysterious Madame Blavatsky” “Biafra: A People Betrayed” “Address to Graduating Class at Bennington College, 1970” “Torture and Blubber” “Address to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1971” “Reflections on my Own Death” “In a Manner that Must Shame God Himself” “Thinking Unthinkable, Speaking Unspeakable” “Address at Rededication of Wheaton College Library, 1973” “Invite Rita Rait to America!” “Address to P.E.N. Conference in Stockholm, 1973” “A Political Disease” “Playboy Interview”
“A book filled with madness and truth and absurdity and self-revelation . . . [Vonnegut is] a great cosmic comedian and rattler of human skeletons, an idealist disguised as a pessimist.”—St. Louis Post-DispatchPraise for Kurt Vonnegut“He is our strongest writer . . . the most stubbornly imaginative.”—John Irving“Vonnegut is George Orwell, Dr. Caligari and Flash Gordon compounded into one writer.”—Time
About the Author
Kurt Vonnegut’s black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America’s attention in The Sirens of Titan in 1959 and established him as “a true artist” (The New York Times) with Cat’s Cradle in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene declared, “one of the best living American writers.” Mr. Vonnegut passed away in April 2007.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The title of this book is composed of three words from my novel Cat's Cradle. A wampeter is an object around which the lives of many otherwise unrelated people may revolve. The Holy Grail would be a case in point. Foma are harmless untruths, intended to comfort simple souls. An example: "Prosperity is just around the corner." A granfalloon is a proud and meaningless association of human beings. Taken together, the words form as good an umbrella as any for this collection of some of the reviews and essays I have written, a few of the speeches I have made. Most of my speeches were never written down.
. . .
I used to make speeches all the time. I needed the applause. I needed the easy money. And then, while I was doing my regular routine of Hoosier shit-kicking on the stage of the Library of Congress, a circuit breaker in my head snapped out. I had nothing more to say. That was the end of my speaking career. I spoke a few times after that, but I was no longer the glib Philosopher of the Prairies it had once been so easy for me to be.
The proximate cause of my mind's shutting off in Washington was a question from the floor. The middle-aged man who asked it appeared to me to be a recent refugee from Middle Europe. "You are a leader of American young people," he said. "What right do you have to teach them to be so cynical and pessimistic?"
I was not a leader of American young people. I was a writer who should have been home and writing, rather than seeking easy money and applause.
. . .
I can name several good American writers who have become wonderful public speakers, who now find it hard to concentrat