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Love as Always, Kurt: Vonnegut as I Knew Him Hardcover – March 10, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


New York Post “Page Six”, 11/14/08
“Vonnegut's private correspondence with a student he bedded in the mid-'60s is about to be bared for the first time.”

Kirkus, 2/1/09
“Rackstraw’s account offers enough interesting material on Vonnegut and his work to please his many fans.”

Robert Weide, director of Kurt Vonnegut: American Made and screenwriter of Mother Night

“If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to log some serious face time with one of the world’s great writers, Rackstraw’s memoir brings it home in a way that only the closest of confidantes could. It’s intimate without being exploitive, touching but not sentimentalized. I daresay Vonnegut himself would have loved it for its honesty, humor, and insight.”

Jerome Klinkowitz, author of The Vonnegut Effect and Kurt Vonnegut’s America

“Kurt Vonnegut says he considered Loree Rackstraw his wampeter. That was his pet name for ‘an object which the lives of many otherwise unrelated people may revolve.’ Thanks to her importance in his life, Loree can present a memoir that captures the essence of both his writing and his character. Kurt was always fascinated by how certain people worked together for a common purpose that might not be immediately apparent. He called this mastery a karass. Kurt and Loree shared one, the secret of which is revealed here.”

Robley Wilson, author of The World Still Melting

“The English language has no proper name for the affection Loree shared with Kurt, a connection that was neither love nor passion nor friendship nor admiration, but all of the above. This is a fond and beautiful book.”

Entertainment Weekly
, 3/20/09

“When Love as Always, Kurt is at its best, the ‘love’ in Rackstraw's title seems to refer not just to Vonnegut's love for her, but his love for all of us.”

Curled Up with a Good Book

“[Rackstraw’s] insider descriptions of the great author are at times delightful and always insightful.”

Wall Street Journal
, 3/16/09

“Rackstraw’s Vonnegut-focused memoir…gives us a chance to track Vonnegut’s private life and public persona and, inevitably, to revisit his literary reputation.”

, May/June 2009

“As only one who knew him well could, Rackstraw conjures a robust portrait of this paradoxical legend, drawing on their voluminous correspondence to provide singular insights that both contradict and celebrate his iconic status…Rackstraw’s forte is finding that satisfying balance of objectivity and subjectivity that memoirists must bring to their work…Artfully blending her confidante’s understanding of Vonnegut’s kaleidoscopic personality with an academician’s assessment of his timeless and universal themes, Rackstraw manages to offer both a dignified testimonial to a literary master and a loving tribute to a lifelong friend.”

Chronicle of Higher Education
, 3/20/09

“A memoir that honors the man and his works.”

San Diego Union-Tribune
, 3/22/09

“An affectionate memoir.”

Library Journal
, 4/15/09

“Rackstraw appreciably enhances Vonnegut’s renown with her own interpretation of the events of Vonnegut’s life and with excerpts of his letters spanning four decades…Rackstraw reveals many insights into Vonnegut—his marriages, friendships, sense of the comic and the ridiculous, and melancholy, which later developed into severe depression…Rackstraw’s compelling portrait is recommended."

Daily Iowan
, 4/9/09

“A biography of Vonnegut’s life and a more intimate portrait of a man most readers only know through his semiautobiographical fiction.”


“It's interesting to see the struggles of a literary giant through the eyes of a close friend.”

, 4/27/09

“Rackstraw does not come across as a mercenary, fame-grubbing type.”

, Spring 2009

“When Kurt Vonnegut said, ‘write to please just one person’ there’s a good chance he meant longtime friend and love interest Loree Rackstraw.”

Cedar Rapids Gazette
, 4/12/09

“A major event for Vonnegut lovers…Reveal[s] some interesting details.”

Minneapolis City Pages
, 4/16/09

“Reads like a who’s-who of the male, American literary canon of the second half of the 20th century…Aside from the glittering glimpses into the private lives of these literary giants, her memoir…is a study in both relationships that seem to defy easy categorization (like Rackstraw and Vonnegut’s) and the role of the artist in modern society…Rackstraw gives us a rich and complicated Vonnegut.”

Shepherd Express
, 4/20/09

“The "tell-all" aspects…are handled with a dignity and old-fashioned discretion.”

The Onion (A.V. Club)
, 4/23/09

“Kurt Vonnegut’s well-worn image seems impossible to deflate, and thankfully, longtime friend and professor emeritus Loree Rackstraw doesn’t do anything to tarnish the man’s reputation with her new memoir…The excerpts from Vonnegut’s correspondence are entertaining…Her honesty in detailing Vonnegut’s waning years give the book…weight.”

Brooklyn Rail, 5/09
“[Rackstraw] helps us feel, in a time of seemingly world-wide insanity, the loss of one of the 20th century’s most critical and compassionate voices…Offer[s] another space where fans can get a few degrees closer to the cherished American icon she loved.”

Augusta Spirit Metro, 4/29/09
“A touching and poignant account…Gripping in its detail…A lovely piece of history for fans of Vonnegut and those interested in the creation of written art.”

Waterbury Republican-American (CT), 5/3/09
“A highly personal memoir.”

Boston Globe, 5/17/09
“Riveting…Absorbing…Rackstraw, to her credit, refuses to traffic in juicy details…[She] does a fine job of suggesting Vonnegut's intellectual vitality, the breadth of his moral concerns, and the insecurities that plagued him…Love as Always is perhaps most fascinating for what it suggests about the tumult of the artist's life.”

Indianapolis Star, 6/14/09
“Hardcore Vonnegut fans who have read everything about the man and are thirsting for more might find a snippet of interest here.”

Iowa City Press Citizen, 7/11/09
“There is nothing conventional about Love as Always, Kurt…A thoughtful rumination on Vonnegut as a literary and cultural phenomenon.”

Iowa City Press Citizen, 7/13/09
“[Rackstraw’s] memoir includes photos and never-before-published correspondence that provide insight into the experiences and forces that shaped Vonnegut's writing, portraying him as a deeply humane person who sought humor and absurdity in order to survive.”

Magill Book Review, October 2009
“[A] leisurely told memoir…Worth having, both for reminding readers of a significant literary and, for many, personal, loss, and to whet appetites for the full-sca

About the Author

Loree Rackstraw is Professor Emeritus at the University of Northern Iowa. A former fiction editor of The North American Review, Rackstraw holds degrees from Grinnell College and the University of Iowa. She lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (March 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306818035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306818035
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #610,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
For me, the best parts of this book occur in the first couple of chapters where we get a glimpse of a struggling, unknown Vonnegut teaching and writing at the Iowa Writer's Workshop in the mid-sixties. Very little information about Vonnegut's life before Slaughterhouse Five is available, and the first couple of chapters provide some insight. But Racksaw works close to the vest when it comes to details about any kind of sexual affair, only hinting most of the time. And she focuses much more on the mood and feel of the Workshop community than the actualy day to day classes and what Vonnegut was like as a teacher. She gives us glimpses, but that's about all.

The rest of the book conicles Vonnegut's rise to fame up and continuing struggles with depression and writing until his death in 2007, mostly through Rackstraw's memories and correspondence with Vonnegut. She keeps Vonnegut in the forefront at all times and never tries to grab the spotlight, which is a good thing.

But I wouldn't call this a very fair and balanced portrayal. Kurt is all good in her eyes, never writing a bad book, never giving a bad speech, never drawing a bad picture. I imagine Vonnegut, prone to mood swings and depression, was probably pretty hard to get along with at times. And yes, he wrote a few bad books too.

Still, until a definitive Vonnegut biography comes out, something like this is a nice look inside the life of one of American literature's most popular figures.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book being a Vonnegut fan, wanting to know more about his life. Rackstraw's book gave me a start at least. It's about a long distance friendship that spanned most of Vonnegut's life as a writer, and it did't seem to me the author was capitalizing on that friendship for money or fame. At times Rackstraw let's her emotions show. There was more to their relationship than just teacher and student, or being fellow writers, so why not open a vein or two. To me the book overall was more objective than subjective, and is a good, quick look at the real Kurt Vonnegut, until a comprehensive biography comes along. Recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut described that as an Anthropology student at the University of Chicago he was taught "nobody was ridiculous or bad or disgusting. Shortly before my father died, he said to me, 'You know -- you never wrote a story with a villain in it.' It is appropriate that in Lorre Rackstraw's book on Vonnegut there are also no villains just a number of people trying to make their way as writers and other artists in this world.

The book focuses on the creative milieu that Vonnegut worked in during his teaching at the Iowa Writers Workshop, and his life in Massachusetts and New York. From it we have some idea of Vonnegut's relationships with Rackstraw, his two wives Jane Vonnegut and Jill Krementz, his children and his family. More interesting, to me at least, was the book's reminiscences of Vonnegut's relationships with other writers and artists like Andre Dubus, Paul Engle, Joseph Heller, John Irving, Richard Yates and others. I think Rackstraw does as excellent job describing the group dynamic of the authors that Vonnegut befriended and admired and the book gives a great sense of them as a whole. Even though her discussion of her own relationship is at times constrained, she does provide some insight into the development of his creative works. It is a tribute to her that Vonnegut trusted her review and opinions of them.

This is not a biography and not a definitive work on Vonnegut but future historians and biographers are greatly in her debt.
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Format: Paperback
Loree Rackstraw and Kurt Vonnegut kept up a friendship for over 40 years through voluminous correspondence, phone calls, and occasional visits. This memoir provides a rare glimpse into the development of Vonnegut's books and reveals Rackstraw's special insight as a literary critic, thinker and writer herself as she reviews her friend's works and the events that sparked and sustained his fire (and hers) over so much distance and many productive years.

This book is not some dry scholarly tome but reads like an intimate journal combined with a detective story as bits of the plot and the turns of complicated lives are revealed to the reader. Just a fascinating book, even if you have never read a word of Kurt Vonnegut's books (which is unlikely!) and just want a warm, human interest story of personal interaction, love, and a real life that was thoughtful,heartfelt, and well-considered.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read Kurt Vonnegut over the years and re-read most of his novels after his death in 2007. It is great to have the backgrounds of some of these books and to see another side of him.

I didn't know about this lady and I don't care to read the intimate details of their relationship. She tosses out enough hints where I can use my imagination and that is how it should be. I am approximately her age and understand where she is coming from. Most of us brought up in Iowa when she was (I was too) learned to keep private things private.

I recommend this book to any Vonnegut fans who want to read how it all was done. I am now on a quest to find copies of the speeches, articles and essays she mentioned!
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