Wampeters Foma Granfalloons PDF/EPUB ò Wampeters Foma

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    Wampeters Foma Granfalloons PDF/EPUB ò Wampeters Foma WikipediaWampeters, Foma Granfalloons Vonnegut, KurtWampeters, Foma Granfalloons Opinions 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."/>
  1. says:

    At least once a year I find myself in need to fire up the bookmobile and drive up to Indiana to visit my Uncle Kurt.

    I have an eclectic literary family, wild old Uncle Bob Heinlein in Missouri, cousins Ray Bradbury and Poul Anderson, Ursula and Phil out in Berkley. Seems we can never all get together.

    But driving up the Middle America street to Kurt Vonnegut’s urbane but kooky house always makes me smile.

    Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons is Kurt’s 1974 collection of essays, sketches, speeches, interviews and musings. As always, his writing educates, amuses, entertains, and promotes thinking and most otherwise makes for a worthwhile reading experience.

    But here’s the thing:

    I call him “uncle” because his style of writing and his expressiveness has always seemed, to me at least, more or less avuncular. But being born in 1922 and a veteran of World War II, he is of my grandfather’s generation, what many have deemed “the greatest generation”.

    What seems clear to me now, looking back on having read Vonnegut for about 30 years, is to highlight that he was of the greatest AMERICAN generation, and that he is of course a great American.

    What stands out in these pages and from a perspective of reading much of his work is his affinity for all things American. It is no accident that this Midwestern Hoosier, of immigrant German lineage, was a WWII veteran, an upper middle class professional who came to writing later in life and who is fiercely American in his writings.

    And of course as any frequent reader of Vonnegut will know, he is not of the flag waiving, parade walking, chest thumping nationalistic / jingoistic variety, Heavens no!, he is rather of the old school democratic, progressive, and critically observant category, the kind of American who sees it as his civic duty to critique when necessary.

    Another observation that should be made in this humble and insufficient review, is that Vonnegut was NOT the model for Billy Pilgrim from his seminal work Slaughterhouse-Five. Kurt Vonnegut was not a bumbling, accidental soldier wearing poorly sized uniforms, not so – Vonnegut was a forward scout and a prisoner of war who was beaten by his German guards when he told them - in German – what he would do to them when he was liberated by the Russians.

    What shows through so enormously, so peremptorily (though with a sly wink and a nod, a subtle Midwestern barb) was more than his Americanism but rather the greatness of his humanism. Vonnegut truly liked people and was genuinely offended by war and crime and political / corporate shenanigans and other forms of bad manners, and in his homely but funny way he poked fun at those to whom fun needs poking, to those who need a reminder about civility and decency, and with a wry smile and a long drag on the ubiquitous cigarette, asks us (like Thoreau to Emerson) why we aren’t hopping mad too.

    “Joking,” he explains, “is his response to misery I couldn’t do anything about.”

    So, here’s to you, Uncle Kurt, its always nice to visit.

    ****2019 re-read

    Every time I read this book it makes me smile.

    Vonnegut’s 1974 anthology contains essays and speeches (and one short work of fiction) all written in the late 60s and early 70s after Breakfast of Champions and before his novel Slapstick, or Lonesome No More!.

    What stands out in all of these twenty or so chapters is Vonnegut’s easy humanism and his scathing cynicism for all things impure and unkind. A prisoner of war, Vonnegut would become famous for his pacifism. A humorous writer, he was for a time a popular choice for college graduation speeches and several of these are featured.

    He sets out how, because he mentions and uses technology, he was early on categorized as a science fiction writer. This annoyed him, first of all because it was inaccurate when you compare his works to real SF writers like Asimov and Heinlein, but also because it gave some critics a reason to discount the importance of his work.

    In his account of Biafra, we see first-hand the devastating political and military defeat of a proud people and a brief modern nation in Africa. Kurt Vonnegut met writer Chinua Achebe in Africa during this tragedy.

    Finally, the collection ends with his 1973 Playboy interview. This was a great dialogue that sheds important light on who Vonnegut was and why he thought the way he did. Interestingly, he alluded to his “upcoming” book which was Slaptick and now I’m off to read that one.

    Hi Ho!

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  2. says:

    This collection of nonfiction demonstrates amply why so many people fall headlong in love with Vonnegut—all aspects of his cranky humanity, his unimpeachable morality, his hard-won cynicism are on show over these twenty-five pieces. The title isn’t particularly catchy: readers of Cat’s Cradle will recognise the terms which Vonnegut says represent his dabblings in nonfiction. Not so. Among the brilliance here includes his take on SF as a literary art, his ornery take on the moon landing and a loving portrayal of mystic Madame Blavatsky. The subtitle here is ‘opinions,’ and fierier pieces include ‘In a Manner That Must Shame God Himself’ which napalms the Nixon presidency, a provocative piece on Nigeria ‘Biafra: A People Betrayed,’ and a brief homage to Hunter S. Thompson ‘A Political Disease,’ where Vonnegut invents Thompson’s Disease for those betrayed by their leaders to the point of mental collapse (Thompson cured himself of his disease with a shotgun in 2005. So it goes). The inclusion of several public speeches and throwaway shavings detract from the urgency somewhat, but the Playboy interview ends the collection on a marvellously lucid note. Ah, the days Playboy was a respected literary organ! I hope Nicole Ritchie’s favourite book is Slaughterhouse-Five, I really do. A must-read for ALL Vonnegut fans. That’s you!


  3. says:

    Wampeters--An object around which the lives of otherwise unrelated people revolve, e.g., The Holy Grail.
    Foma--Harmless, comforting untruths, e.g., Prosperity is just around the corner.
    Granfalloons--A proud and meaningless association of human beings, e.g., The Veterans of Future Wars.

    Taken together, the words form as good an umbrella as any for this collection of essays, book reviews and speeches written over the years by Vonnegut. This review will contain a lot of excerpts, because I can think of no better way to clue any of you uninitiated in to just how wonderfully this man writes.

    The book starts off with an essay entitled Science Fiction in which Vonnegut discusses the genre. When his first book, Player Piano, was published, he was surprised that reviewers referred to him as a science fiction writer.

    I didn't know that. I supposed that I was writing a novel about life, about things I could not avoid seeing and hearing in Schenectady, a very real town, awkwardly set in the gruesome now. I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled science fiction ever since, and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.
    The way a person gets into this drawer, apparently, is to notice technology. The feeling persists that no one can simultaneously be a respectable writer and know how a refrigerator works, just as no gentleman wears a brown suit in the city.

    In Teaching the Unteachable, he recounts his time spent teaching writer's workshops.

    I tried to help those good students become what they were born to become, and to avoid intimidating them with masterpieces written by great men much older than they were. In an alarming manner of speaking, I tried to reach into their mouths without being bitten or tripping their epiglottises. Again, in a manner of speaking, I wanted to take hold of the end of a spool of ticker tape in the back of each student's throat. I meant to pull it out inch by inch, so the student and I could read it.

    There are several terrific addresses to various organizations, and a moving essay about Biafra, however, I found the 1973 Playboy interview to be the most interesting. Here Vonnegut talks off the cuff about the importance of family and community, war, the 1972 Presidential Election, and his writing.

    VONNEGUT: What's happened to me, though, is a standard American business story. As I said, my family's always been in the arts, so the arts to me are business. I started out with a pushcart and now I've got several supermarkets at important intersections. My career grew just the way a well-managed business is supposed to grow. After twenty years at a greasy grind, I find that all my books are in print and selling steadily. They will go on selling for a little while. Computers and printing presses are in charge. That's the American way: If the machines can find a way to use you, you will become a successful businessman. I don't care much now whether the business grows or shrinks. My kids are grown. I have no fancy uses for money. It isn't a love symbol to me.

    PLAYBOY: What is a love symbol for you?

    VONNEGUT: Fudge is one.

    As usual, the man leaves me with a big old smile on my face.


  4. says:

    “You understand, of course, that everything I say is horseshit.” (Playboy interview)

    My plan was to dip in and out of this one, but sometimes I let too many days go in between. It took me forever to finish, and as a result, I got kind of tired of it. Still a decent collection, though. I liked the speeches and book reviews (that KV wrote of other books) the most.


  5. says:

    Nothing less than five stars will do for this one.

    I wanted to have a better concept of Vonnegut’s personality in preparation for reading Kurt Vonnegut’s biography “And So It Goes.” I thought a book of non-fiction by KV would be appropriate so I revisited this after nearly 40 years since my first reading. I remembered virtually nothing from my original read. My intent was to read a chapter now and then and to alternate with several books of short stories and non-fiction I’ve been reading. After a short period I realized my attention was exclusively with Vonnegut and devoted all of my attention to this volume. I found Vonnegut’s essays and lectures as fascinating as his fiction, a trait he shares with Jorge Luis Borges.

    I was struck by how much Vonnegut’s thinking paralleled my own (If only I could write as well!) and by how compellingly he spoke for so many of my generation. Through all of this his signature mix of poignancy and humor, so typical of his fiction, was present at all times. Among the topics discussed are the Vietnam War, the Biafran tragedy, and the presidential campaign of 1972, particularly relevant in this election year and amazingly timely and prescient.

    Poignancy and humor

    Timely and prescient.


  6. says:

    I loved this book because I love Kurt Vonnegut and reading his opinions made me feel closer to him as a person, which may sound weird, but I really admire him. I also really enjoyed this book because, even though it was a book of his opinions, he wrote them in a fictional way. I really liked the story Fortitude because it was a story about the evils of technology (at least, that's how I read it) and how people succumb to it without realizing that it's happening. I also really liked his interview with playboy at the very end of the novel... it really taught me a lot about him as not only an author, but as a person as well. Everything I learned about him made me love him even more and I would totally recommend this novel to all Vonnegut lovers.


  7. says:

    I like Kurt Vonnegut not only for his humorous and imaginative novels and short stories but also for his politics, his values. Not only has he added his name to many a worthy petition and appeared on many a plstform, but when The Nation, the oldest news weekly magazine in the USA, was in financial trouble, Vonnegut, Doctorow, Vidal and other writers bailed them out without demanding editorial control. This collection represents something of where Vonnegut came from and what he believed in, much of it, in my opinion, simple common sense informed by humane sympathy.


  8. says:

    The standout article in this collection is Biafra: A People Betrayed. Grandpa Kurt goes full on serious and writes an achingly heartsick piece about the suffering of the Biafrans. Where we're used to his japery and bile venting, he is tender and compassionate towards this tiny fledgling nation, and I feel this has more impact than anything else in this volume.

    I've kind of reached saturation point with his non-fiction, but then I think I've read most of it now. It's all excellent but I've read several of the anecdotes more than once now. I'm going to steer towards his fiction again, for a while.

    It's a decent starting place if you haven't read any of his non-fiction before. You just have to remember that this collection was published in the early 70s. Do it, though! You won't regret it.


  9. says:

    And it strikes me as gruesome and comical that in our culture we have an expectation that a man can always solve his problems. There is an implication that if you just have a little more energy, a little more fight, the problem can always be solved. This is so untrue that it makes me want to cry - or laugh.

    Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons (1964 - 1974) is - as Kurt Vonnegut describes it himself - a collection of some of the reviews and essays I have written, a few speeches I have made. This very uneven collection, in which the meh pieces overshadow the interesting ones, is a rather disappointing mix of deep insights, well-aimed bitter sarcasm, trademark Vonnegut's pessimism, aimless ramblings, and even outright failed pieces of writing.

    One of the best essays, Excelsior! We're Going to the Moon! Excelsior!, is about the space program, its tremendous costs and meager benefits. More importantly, though, it is about profanation of great human ideas and iconic symbols of progress by commercialism through schlock merchandising schemes of advertising. I also like the Address to Graduating Class at Bennington College, 1970. It is a well argued, grim manifesto of pessimism that contains statements like Everything is going to become unimaginably worse, and never get better again, where the objects of author's sarcasm are well deserving of scorn. The piece about the war in Biafra is, in turn, extremely serious, dramatic, and as moving as the unforgettable Slaughterhouse Five

    The story Teaching the Unteachable satirizes summer writing schools; Mr. Vonnegut, who was an instructor at one of these schools, states the obvious You can't teach people to write well. Writing well is something God lets you do or declines to let you do. On the other hand, I am completely unable to get the short play Fortitude that features, among others, a Dr. Frankenstein. As much as I have been trying to give the benefit of doubt to one of my favorite writers, I don't think the text makes much sense. One of the pieces in the collection is Mr. Vonnegut's interview for the Playboy magazine. Playboy used to have some top-notch conversations with famous people, alas the one here, rambling, unfocused, and superficial, is certainly not one of them. The Mysterious Madame Blavatsky is another aimless piece.

    So while I agree with Mr. Vonnegut's deeply pessimistic opinion about many aspects of our society, primarily about the commercialism that soils every lofty idea it encounters, I am unable to recommend the collection. Let's at least end with another neat quote:

    Earth is such a pretty blue and pink and white pearl in the pictures NASA sent me. It looks so *clean*. You can't see all the hungry, angry Earthlings down there - and the smoke and the sewage and trash and sophisticated weaponry.
    Two stars.


  10. says:

    Kurt Vonnegut met Chinua Achebe in Africa? I found this so fascinating.

    I also really enjoyed the little review of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail.

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