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If This Isn't Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young-The Graduation Speeches Hardcover – April 8, 2014

77 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? is a spectacular read in its entirety, brimming with Vonnegut’s unflinching convictions and timeless advice to the young."—Maria Popova, Brainpickings.org

“Like [that of] his literary ancestor Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut’s crankiness is good-humored and sharp-witted.”—A.O. ScottThe New York Times Book Review

"Like so much of Vonnegut's work, these speeches combine absurdist humor, pessimism and countercultural politics, with improbably and disarmingly charming results."—Troy Jollimore, Chicago Tribune's Printers Row Journal

"If This Isn't Nice, What Is? is a blast of pure acid."—Entertainment Weekly

"The material here offers us a slightly different lens, a different window, extending across a wide range of time and geography, from Fredonia College in Fredonia New York in 1978 to Eastern Washington University in Spokane in 2004, and framed by not just Vonnegut’s sense of humor but also of humanity, his faith in our essential decency."—David Ulin, The Los Angeles Times

"These delightful scattershot commencement speeches offer fresh clues to what lay behind Kurt Vonnegut's twinkly visage—clues that are well worth celebrating."—Peter Matthiessen

About the Author

Born in 1922 in Indianapolis, Indiana, KURT VONNEGUT was one of the few grandmasters of modern American letters. Called by the New York Times “the counterculture’s novelist,” his works guided a generation through the miasma of war and greed that was life in the U.S. in second half of the 20th century. After a stints as a soldier, anthropology PhD candidate, technical writer for General Electric, and salesman at a Saab dealership, Vonnegut rose to prominence with the publication ofCat’s Cradle in 1963. Several modern classics, including Slaughterhouse-Five, soon followed. Never quite embraced by the stodgier arbiters of literary taste, Vonnegut was nonetheless beloved by millions of readers throughout the world. “Given who and what I am,” he once said, “it has been presumptuous of me to write so well.” Kurt Vonnegut died in New York in 2007.

A longtime friend of Kurt Vonnegut’s, Dan Wakefield edited and introduced Kurt Vonnegut: Letters. Wakefield is the author of the memoirs New York in the Fifties and Returning: A Spiritual Journey. His novel, Going All the Way was made into a movie starring Ben Affleck. Wakefield also created the NBC prime time series, James at Fifteen. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press (April 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1609805917
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609805913
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By rwags on December 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you love Vonnegut, of course you’ll love this. A lot of it will seem familiar, but who cares. A lot of it is repeated. Again, who cares? He is smart, witty, cynical, genius. If you don’t have everything by Vonnegut yet, this should not be at the top of your list, but once you've read everything by him and you want more, get it. It’s not Vonnegut at his best, but even when he’s mediocre, he’s better than most.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Troy Blackford on March 22, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This was a quick and interesting collection of speeches given by Kurt Vonnegut, mostly to graduating college classes. Though every speech was different, there were definitely a few repeating themes. Well worth a read, and uplifting for the most part. I enjoyed it and I think some of the ideas will stick with me.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ben Atkinson on April 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I love Vonnegut. Reading his grocery shopping list would be enjoyable, entertaining and informative. This book is all of that and more.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By NicoleMarieYogini on September 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
I give Vonnegut's compilation of speeches a solid three stars, as it was a very quick and enjoyable read. Although mildly redundant--how could it not be given the similar themes throughout most of his speeches--and sometimes a bit too sarcastic-ly cynical in my opinion, I still appreciated his thoughts and perspective. What I liked best was his assertion that being happy and not realizing it is the most tragic waste of all. So, he pleads, notice when little things make you smile. Remember and recount these moments, for they are happiness.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By carcar on December 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Vonnegut is a brilliant and thoughtful writer and lecturer. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Vonnegut, read this book as an introduction to his style, philosophy and wit.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Monet on March 5, 2015
Format: Hardcover
This was my first run in with Kurt Vonnegut, though I have heard a lot about his published work and his reputation as a exceptional writer. Unfortunately this was not the best book to jump into, While trying to get a taste for his work. A novelist may be amazing at what he does, but for some it doesn't always translate into their speeches.

This is a collection of graduation speeches throughout the years, and across the country. He brings up many intriguing points, while sharing his opinions on various topics. Some speeches had a couple great jokes. But unfortunately most of the time his humor was lost in the dated references he used. In other situations I found the topic to be lost while he was drifting into a completely unrelated anecdote. It felt more like a grasp at straws then a witty joke or attempt to switch in topics.

All in all it was a bit boring, and more of a burden to read then a satisfying read. I found the book to be repetitive. Many speeches had the same points, and even same lines. It's understandable that he would use the same joke or same anecdote in speeches at different universities, but in a book its daunting to get through.

I am thankful to have had the opportunity to read this book, which I won via Goodreads Giveaways. It's unfortunate that I wasn't able to give it more than a 2 star rating. I believe in honest reviews. I think If I were able to hear them first hand maybe they would have had more impact. Unfortunately reading this book just fell short of any expectations.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christina Kopp on May 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Kurt Vonnegut was a wise and hilarious man, as well as a creative genius, so I was glad to read his graduation speeches. Still, having several of his speeches in one book reminded me that even geniuses have formulas, and Vonnegut certainly had his own version of a speech. I found the formula a bit tiring after the first few speeches, but I did appreciate the chance to read some of Vonnegut's words of wisdom, and I have found myself saying, "If this isn't nice, what is?" all the time now!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dwight M. Collins on December 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Interesting to read what Vonnegut had to say to recent college graduates at various universities across the country. A little different than what you might expect.
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