I finally finished Pity The Reader: On Writing With Style by Kurt Vonnegut and Suzanne McConnell after taking a short hiatus on this particular volume as life got busy. Luckily, this book is one that can be picked up after time away without any disruption because of how it is structured as well as the content itself. This book is centered on writing as a craft and attempts to provide the reader with the lessons Kurt Vonnegut left behind on the topic.
Written by Suzanne McConnell, a student of Kurt Vonnegut during his time at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and later a lifelong friend, this book contains much of Kurt’s views and lessons on writing but also contains a biographical insight into Kurt Vonnegut himself. The book consists primarily of Vonnegut’s writings and uses original source materials including letters and drafts of stories.
I think this book provides many insights into craft that are beneficial, but also many insights into life and the world we live in. Granted, the world Vonnegut lived in was much different than the one we know today primarily due to technology (even though he passed away in 2007), but much is the same when it comes to human interaction. Vonnegut was considered one of the first (or most impactful) black humorist of his time. His writing is definitely unique and this book goes further to elaborate why Vonnegut, and his work, is one-of-a-kind.
This book gave me a better appreciation of Vonnegut’s work. I had read Slaughterhouse Five, The Sirens of Titan, and Breakfast of Champions many years ago and I think I would have a different view when reading them today. I remember thinking they were slightly whimsical and almost pointless, but that was because I was trying to base them on the merit of the story itself. I think Vonnegut’s works need to be read in the context of the world we live in as he was very much involved (or aware) of the craziness of the human race. Having many more years to see the this craziness is why I think I’ll have a better appreciation the second time around or with other works I have yet to read. I’m currently reading a collection of stories titled Welcome to the Monkey House, and I have to admit I’ve enjoyed every story so far.
If you are interested in Vonnegut, writing, or both, then this book is likely one you will enjoy. I know I got more out of it than I expected.
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