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Like Shaking Hands With God: A Conversation About Writing Paperback – November 28, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press (November 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743410580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743410588
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 4.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,046,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Kurt Vonnegut (Breakfast of Champions): writer of wild, satiric, outrageous fiction. Lee Stringer (Grand Central Winter): one-time homeless crack addict who discovered that pencils are not just drug implements. Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer: a mutual admiration society. Like Shaking Hands with God: a transcription of two moderated conversations between Vonnegut and Stringer--one before a bookstore audience, one over lunch.

Shaking Hands has a slender profile and a pretty cover. But the only thing slight about these conversations is that they leave the reader wanting more. The book is billed as "a conversation about writing," but it is as much about life as about writing. Neither Vonnegut nor Stringer is interested in holing up in a garret to write. Vonnegut makes any excuse to go out and rub elbows with the folks who buy lottery tickets. Stringer wonders, "Can you write anything on Park Avenue, really?" Vonnegut laments his happy childhood as "no way for a writer to begin." Stringer panics--while he wrote his first book as if on a high, the next one may emerge from an awareness of Oprah and marketability.

Vonnegut and Stringer are passionate about one another's work, passionate about life, and passionate about writing, but not so much so that they ever, for a moment, lose their sense of irony or humor. In the age of the sound bite, literature can be deemed, on some level, useless. Stringer praises writing, in that context, as "a struggle to preserve our right to be not so practical." And Vonnegut? "We are here on Earth to fart around," he proclaims in Timequake (excerpted here). "Don't let anybody tell you any different!" --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

American Society of Journalists and Authors Newsletter An enthusiastic conversation about why and how they write...One of those brief dips into the psyche of very good authors that can be so motivation to all of us at various stages of our careers, no matter what we write or aspire to write. -- Review

More About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922. He studied at the universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951 and since then he has written many novels, among them: The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr Rosewater (1964), Welcome to the Monkey House; a collection of short stories (1968), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick, or Lonesome No More (1976), Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galapagos (1985), Bluebeard (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1990). During the Second World War he was held prisoner in Germany and was present at the bombing of Dresden, an experience which provided the setting for his most famous work to date, Slaughterhouse Five (1969). He has also published a volume of autobiography entitled Palm Sunday (1981) and a collection of essays and speeches, Fates Worse Than Death (1991).

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Chris Bonney on January 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed Stringer's Grand Center Winter and am a life-long fan of Vonnegut. But I was terribly disappointed by this edited transcript from a couple of conversations between the two writers. Given the great potential of such gifted writers, this book seems little more than mutual admiration; it's short on substance or gravity and provides little insight to those of us who may be interested in the art of writing. I would have probably felt far better about this if it had been, instead, a magazine piece. But at this price I expected more substance.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bonita L. Davis on November 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Anything by Kurt Vonnegut is good! Well almost anything. I was attracted to this gem featuring two authors of different generations conversing about the meaning of writing in their lives. I expected an enlightening tome that would set my mind to thinking and provide me with new insight.
Neither happened. Vonnegut and Stringer are good writers but these interviews just didn't come off well in print. A question is raised as to what the two writers had in common. Stringer gave some good points but Vonnegut rambled on into the wild blue yonder. Of the two, Stringer appeared to stay focused on the questions and provided the reader with insight as to how writing impacted on his life and freed him from his own internal demons.
As a collector's item in your Vonnegut library, yes, do indeed purchase it. If you want something more in depth with Vonnegut and Stringer read their works. This text just doesn't get to the heart of their writing world.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. Lyman on May 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a wisp of a book. At less than 80 pages, I read it in one evening in the time it took me to eat a few tapas and down two pints of beer. By the time the check arrived, I was already writing down my thoughts inside the back cover.

But what an enjoyable wisp it is!

Almost everyone I know is a fan of Kurt Vonnegut, and so the colorful and curmudgeonly wisdom he brings to the table here is no surprise. But who is this Lee Stringer guy? By the end, I began to think of him as a superior version of James Frey (author of the badly written pseudo memoir "A Million Little Pieces") with the main difference that Mr. Stringer (1) writes well and (2) his tales about life on Skid Row are true. Actually, now that I think of it, that's kind of like saying I'm like Shakespeare except that he (1) writes a lot better and (2) he's been dead for almost 400 years.

Anyway, back to the book: I admit that Like Shaking Hands With God doesn't offer a great price-per-word ratio (it's slim and relatively expensive) but it does offer a great deal of wisdom on its handful of pages. Based on two conversations between two friends with a lot of respect for each other, these guys are smart, they know how to express themselves, and they've been around the block a few times.

The book bills itself as "a conversation about writing" and it is that. But it's more of a conversation about being, but a kind of being that involves writing. For a lot of avid readers, that's a perfect fit.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Susan K. Perry on March 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In this slight volume (only 46 actual pages of transcribed talk), Vonnegut, the novelist, and Stringer, who wrote a book of memoir essays, carry on an enthusiastic conversation about why and how they write. This seems one of those brief dips into the psyche of very good authors that can be so motivating to all of us at various stages of our careers, no matter what we write or aspire to write. Vonnegut and Stringer are both passsionate about their work. The latter tells of how he realized he could write by describing his first extended flow experience, when he decided to use his pencil, which he otherwise normally used as a drug implement (to push screens into his pipe) to write. After five hours of nonstop focus, he realized this was something, besides seeking drug highs, that he could really do well. They both talk about the primary importance of answering the big questions for themselves in their writing, and how publishing the results is almost an afterthought. Reminding us that even nonfiction authors write to find out where we're going, Stringer says, "I had a lot of fun trying to figure out how I was going to fill up these pages, and then, convinced that I'm not going to figure it out, bingo! something happens. It's like shaking hands with God." There may not be a lot to read here, but it's on target and REAL.
Susan K. Perry, author of the bestselling WRITING IN FLOW
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Beth Chalfin on July 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was able to finish this short book in a few hours at my job. When I was in high school first looking for colleges to attend, the only thing I was certain of was that I wanted to write. Of course life managed to get in the way of that dream, however, after reading this 80 page conversation I feel more inspired to pick up where I left my dream. I was expecting more out of the conversation, but hearing these two incredible authors speak back and forth makes you want to read more and more of their material. I suppose I find it nice to see a personally attached to writers. I would completely recommend this book to anyone who reads their work, and has an hour or two extra.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Todd Steed on August 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I liked the conversational tone of it- and it really is a very enjoyable short and easy read. The second part of the book isn't as good as the first. If you like Vonnegut, you'll dig this. Lots of ideas to chew on.
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