Kurt Vonnegut to John F. Kennedy: ‘On Occasion, I Write Pretty Well’


When archivist Stacey Chan­dler was comb­ing through one of the “Mass­a­chu­setts” files recent­ly at the John F. Kennedy Pres­i­den­tial Library and Muse­um in Boston, she stum­bled on some­thing unex­pect­ed: a let­ter to Kennedy from an obscure writer named Kurt Von­negut, vol­un­teer­ing his ser­vices on Kennedy’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

The let­ter (click the image above to see it larg­er) was writ­ten on August 4, 1960, when Von­negut was a strug­gling fic­tion writer and a failed Saab deal­er liv­ing on Cape Cod, in the town of West Barn­sta­ble, Mass­a­chu­setts. He had writ­ten two nov­els: Play­er Piano (1952) and The Sirens of Titan (1959). In a few declar­a­tive sen­tences, Von­negut out­lines his writ­ing expe­ri­ence and offers his help. There is no record at the JFK Library of a reply from Kennedy and, accord­ing to Rebec­ca Onion at Slate, no men­tion of the sub­ject in two Von­negut biogra­phies.

“I am thir­ty-eight,” writes Von­negut, “have been a free­lance for ten years. I’ve pub­lished two nov­els, and am a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor of fic­tion to The Sat­ur­day Evening Post, Ladies’ Home Jour­nal, McCal­l’s, and so on. On occa­sion, I write pret­ty well.”

via Slate/Archival­ly Speak­ing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight Tips on How to Write a Good Short Sto­ry

Kurt Von­negut Reads from Slaugh­ter­house-Five

Kurt Vonnegut’s Tips for Teach­ing at the Iowa Writ­ers’ Work­shop (1967)

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