Vonnegut Month

I have decided that December is Kurt Vonnegut month for me. After getting burned out on forced readings and pretention, it’s nice to have a vacation in the beauty that is Vonnegut.


Nice Mustache, buddy. Thanks. Yes, I am growing a mustache. I’m also letting my hair grow out to be the best Vonnegut dopplegänger I can be. You see, I’m trying my best to be Vonnegut for this month. I’m reading a lot of his stuff, and it’s fun to sort of envelop and embody the man.

The reason I’m doing this is that I’m afraid that I’ve been sort of castrated (in a literary sense {not literally}) by a sort of writerly sensibility. I think that’s one of the downsides of working with writers is that we begin to trim the little oddities we all have in our natural voice, and pretty soon, we’ve shaved each other down to that very respectable, very stale college creative writer. In an attempt to avoid cliches, we become the greatest cliche of all, the MFA writer. (Oddly, there’s a decent Spongebob Squarepants episode that I think speaks to this sort of removing of rough edges called, “Not Normal.” Here’s a clip.)

You look nothing like Vonnegut. I know. But the reason I chose Vonnegut is that I feel like he’s an astounding mix of approachable, dark, hilarious, and irreverent. Those are all things I would like to be. I want to have no respect for the self-labeled “intelligentsia” (I had a professor in my undergrad anoint herself and other professors that way), and I want to let personalty traits come out in my writing again, particularly humor.

I mean, that’s probably been the biggest wake-up call for me of late. I’ve basically scrubbed myself right out of my fiction. It’s “acceptable,” it’s “writerly,” sure, but, as my good friend Dustin would say, it’s boring. And it is. I see it. It’s boring and I haven’t loved my work of late because it has become a form of pleasing a certain type of know-it-all reader instead of pleasing readers I actually care about (real people), but more importantly, myself.

Oh, what a surprise, you’re rebelling against authority. Yawn. Well, that’s just it, though. It’s not an authority figure, like a politician or a professor or anything. The thing I’m working against at the moment is a system I’ve bought into and participated in. I’ve trimmed people. I’ve stymied them. I’ve said, “Hey, why don’t you hide behind your words some more, eh?” It’s such a destructive mindset, and I don’t think it creates better writers. Or, maybe it can create better writers, but it does not create exceptional writers, in my opinion. It creates work that is technically good. It’s the sort of stuff that we say, “Well, it’s good, I guess. There’s nothing wrong with it.”

This is not one of your better sermons. Point is, I’m done with that. Scrubbing myself and my personality and what I find exciting and entertaining out of my work is maybe the cardinal sin of writing. Asking if work is “boring” or not, though the question seems simple, is actually a rather compelling way to think about writing, because at the end of the day, what are we doing but entertaining (or not)?

So, I’m curious, from my faithful readers, who would you embody to reclaim the reasons you went into your art?

About Adam Nannini

The greatest writer of his generation ... which isn't saying much.
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One Response to Vonnegut Month

  1. Not Vonnegut says:

    Not all your readers are artists. At least not in the same way a writer might be. But what I like about what you’re saying is that it can be applied broadly to any profession or passion. Technique is important. Tools allow you to create the final product, allow you to refine it. However, using those techniques to DEFINE the art is always a mistake. So now that it’s January, who are you embodying this month. You could always buy a flat iron and try the Oscar Wilde look.

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