Kurt Vonnegut: “How To Get A Job Like Mine” (2002)

Kurt Von­negut had many endear­ing qual­i­ties, one being that he liked to trav­el to uni­ver­si­ties where he deliv­ered a talk called “How To Get A Job Like Mine.” The sub­stance, how­ev­er, was always dif­fer­ent, and the con­ver­sa­tion often did­n’t focus on the writ­ing life, or any­thing like it. The talk was real­ly a ves­sel for what­ev­er hap­pened to be on Von­negut’s mind, and it prob­a­bly was­n’t uncom­mon for him to mean­der through his talk, as he did here, then pause and say, “Now, let’s see what the hell else I’ve got here. Where did I even start? I don’t know.”

This par­tic­u­lar talk comes from Von­negut’s 2002 vis­it to Albion Col­lege, where he accept­ed an hon­orary doc­tor­ate. The talk will give you a glimpse into the quirky per­son­al­i­ty that was Von­negut’s, some non sequiturs on sex & gen­der, anec­dotes about his uncle Alex, and then a few heart­felt thoughts on the life worth liv­ing. At the 38th minute, we final­ly get to writ­ing, or some­thing remote­ly approach­ing it. Von­negut was known for giv­ing a humor­ous spiel on the “shape” or “blue­print” of the sto­ry, explain­ing what Kafka’s Meta­mor­pho­sis, Shake­speare’s Ham­let and Cin­derel­la all have in com­mon. If you want to zero in on that famous bit, feel free to jump ahead. But be warned that you’ll be miss­ing a lot of sweet ran­dom­ness and good fun. Part 1 appears above. Here are the remain­ing parts: 2, 3, 4, 5.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Writ­ing Tips from Hen­ry Miller, Elmore Leonard, Mar­garet Atwood, Neil Gaiman & George Orwell

John Steinbeck’s Six Tips for the Aspir­ing Writer and His Nobel Prize Speech

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