It's rare that a book's introduction makes me speak out loud while reading. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't reading aloud. I just found myself saying "Wow" and "Huh!" and "I didn't know that!" out loud, to myself, as I read this beautiful book. As an artist, I found the cover photo and art and even the fonts of the chapter headings both stunning and a fond visit back to the Seventies. But as a reader, and a passionate re-reader of writers I love, I was intrigued and fascinated by the introduction- written with passionate restraint by Dan Wakefield.
Honestly? I rarely read more than one page of book introductions, as they usually reveal more about the writer of the Introduction than the person the Introducer is introducing. But this is happily not the case with Dan Wakefield. I love Wakefield's books, especially "Expect A Miracle" and "Spiritually Incorrect." Actually, now that I think about it, I probably only began to read this Introduction because it was written by Dan Wakefield! His clear, concise and empathetic prose informed me deeply about Kurt Vonnegut and his influences, his family and his artistic struggles to have his iconic and iconoclastic voice published and read.
In fact, a unique and welcome addition to this book is the introduction of each era of letters- which smartly and helpfully places us in the context of Vonnegut's life when he wrote the letters and to whom he was writing. It's such a simple technique but begs the question of why this isn't done more with published letters of notable people... and in this book the chapter introductions serve to create more comprehension of Vonnegut's life and how he dealt with family, friends, associates, success and disappointment. Not only did I feel I was learning so much more about Vonnegut, in almost a biographical way, but this book served to make me want to hunt down a biography of Vonnegut-- but only if it's as well written as this one.
The mark of a good book is one that inspires me to read more. Kurt Vonnegut's Letters not only makes me want to read more Vonnegut but it also makes me want to go back and re-read my treasured Dan Wakefield books.
Great winter read. Stay inside, get cozy on a couch under a blanket and disappear into the mind of a great man as commemorated by another great man.