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

4.4 out of 5 stars 88 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; First Edition / First Printing edition (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
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #371,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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I love Kurt Vonnegut, and I love many of the words of wisdom that appear in this book. It was a nice idea to compile these speeches into one volume. That said, the book is very short, and there is much overlap among the speeches. The same phrases and ideas are mentioned over and over. I don't think Mr. Vonnegut set out to write a "fresh" speech every time his services were requested. Nevertheless, I bought a hardcover copy for both of my boys, who are 18 and 25. I think the book makes a nice gift for young people, despite its shortcomings. If you're looking to read this book yourself, though, and you have a Kindle, I would definitely borrow it instead of buying it, and save yourself a few bucks.
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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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If you've read Vonnegut's fiction you won't find a lot new here but his graduation speeches do a good job of distilling his overall worldview. The speeches do repeat themselves a bit. Not to the point where you would say read one, read them all but enough that they echo each other. If you haven't read any Vonnegut and want a concise view into his opinions this is a great place to look. If you love his message as I do and want a book you can read to remind yourself of why you love his message this is a good book to have. My only caveat is that if you are well versed in Vonnegut you won't find much new here.
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Great collection. Wry, wise, and funny. Love his line that those who want to post the Ten Commandments in public places never suggest that we post the Beatitudes.He quotes Twain that the object of life is for otherss to hold us in high regard. Lots of gems sprinkled througout. Good introuction by Dan Wakefiled. Oh the book's titile? When he and his uncle would hang put on a nice day, the uncle would look around and say, "if this isn't nice, what is?" A good mindset to live by.
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