Magazine December 31, 2020, Issue

Kurt Vonnegut’s Love Letters Show the Cynic’s Softer Side

Kurt Vonnegut (left) in a demonstration in front of the offices of Random House in New York City, N.Y., March 5, 1990 (Nina Berman/Reuters)
Love, Kurt: The Vonnegut Love Letters, 1941–1945, by Kurt Vonnegut; edited by Edith Vonnegut (Random House, 240 pp., $35)

Who was the real Kurt Vonnegut? For a man who so often seemed at pains to present himself as a pessimist or even a fatalist — he wrote in his final collection of essays, A Man without a Country (2005), of his goal to file a lawsuit against the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company for manufacturing products that promised to kill him but failed to deliver — Vonnegut could ex­press, and often seemed to embody, the sweetest of sentiments.

Born in Indianapolis in 1922, he exuded an easygoing Midwestern courtliness. His voice was warm, resonant, and quick to cackle, and he

This article appears as “A Cynic but a Softie” in the December 31, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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Peter Tonguette — Mr. Tonguette is the author of Picturing Peter Bogdanovich: My Conversations with the New Hollywood Director.

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