Hear Kurt Vonnegut’s Novel, Cat’s Cradle, Get Turned into Avant-Garde Music (Featuring Kurt Himself)

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Image by Daniele Prati, via Flickr Commons
Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle resembles its title, a web of overlapping and entangled stories, all of which have huge holes in the middle. And the book—as have many of his slim, surrealist pop masterpieces—was read by many critics as lightweight—whimsical and sentimental.


Franz Kafka Story Gets Adapted into an Award-Winning Australian Short Film: Watch Two Men

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“When you go walking by night up a street and a man, visible a long way off — for the street mounts uphill and there is a full moon — comes running toward you, well, you don’t catch hold of him, not even if he is a feeble and ragged creature, not even if someone chases yelling at his heels, but you let him run on.


Philosopher Richard Rorty Chillingly Predicts the Results of the 2016 Election … Back in 1998

≡ Category: Literature, Philosophy, Politics |20 Comments

Twenty years ago a strong academic left in universities all over the world spoke to political culture the way that a globalized nationalist far-right seems to now. Among public intellectuals in the U.S., Richard Rorty’s name held particular sway.


When Franz Kafka Invented the Answering Machine (1913)

≡ Category: History, Literature, Technology |Leave a Comment


We’ve all had the experience, punctuated by interminable waiting, of circling over and over again through some enormous company’s automatic telephone answering system.


Patti Smith Reads from Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, the Love Letter He Wrote From Prison (1897)

≡ Category: Current Affairs, Literature |Leave a Comment

Just last month, the U.K. announced the so-called “Turing Law,” a policy U.K.’s justice minister Sam Gyimah describes as pardoning “people convicted of historical sexual offenses who would be innocent of any crime today.” The law is named for Alan Turing, the brilliant gay computer scientist whose work on A.I.


Benedict Cumberbatch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Incensed Letter to the High School That Burned Slaughterhouse-Five

≡ Category: Letters, Literature |9 Comments

If you’ve kept up with Open Culture for a while, you know that Kurt Vonnegut could write a good letter, whether home from World War II, to high school students, to other writers, to John F. Kennedy, or to the future.


When Vladimir Nabokov Taught Ruth Bader Ginsburg, His Most Famous Student, To Care Deeply About Writing

≡ Category: Current Affairs, Literature, Politics |1 Comment

There are a few ways to get a glimpse of Vladimir Nabokov as a teacher, a role he occupied for almost twenty years at Wellesley and Cornell. We can take the “good reader” quiz he gave to his students. We can listen to his interviews on life and literature, though they won’t give us any sense of spontaneity.


Father Writes a Great Letter About Censorship When Son Brings Home Permission Slip to Read Ray Bradbury’s Censored Book, Fahrenheit 451

≡ Category: Current Affairs, Education, Literature, Politics |4 Comments

How does censorship come about in advanced, ostensibly democratic societies? In some cases, through institutions colluding in ways that go unnoticed by the general public. As Noam Chomsky has argued for decades, state agencies often collude with the press to spread certain narratives and suppress others.


What Does Jorge Luis Borges’ “Library of Babel” Look Like? An Accurate Illustration Created with 3D Modeling Software

≡ Category: Architecture, Computer Science, Literature |Leave a Comment

Sketchup renderings of the Library of Babel. Images courtesy of Jamie Zawinski.
Fulfilling the maxim “write what you know,” Argentine fabulist Jorge Luis Borges penned one of his most extraordinary and bewildering stories, “The Library of Babel,” while employed as an assistant librarian.


Kurt Vonnegut’s Term Paper Assignment from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop Teaches You to Read Fiction Like a Writer

≡ Category: Creativity, Education, Letters, Literature, Writing |2 Comments


Image by Daniele Prati, via Flickr Commons
I wish I’d had a teacher who framed his or her assignments as letters…
Which is really just another way of saying I wish I’d been lucky enough to have taken a class with writers Kurt Vonnegut or Lynda Barry.


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