I was reading casually through Kurt Vonnegut: Letters (New York: Delacorte Press, 2012) edited by Dan Wakefield to take a break from some assigned reading and I found myself looking for Kurt Vonnegut’s letters to his daughter Nanny. His letters to her are funny, snarky at times, but always heartfelt. His letters carry this sense of conversation—like the recipient had just left speaking with him and he’s written a note to continue it with his own stories and thoughts. I think the best letters tend to have this quality. Here’s one from November 14, 1977.
November 14, 1977
[New York City]
TO NANNY VONNEGUT
Dearest of all possible Nans—
Two superb presents and a funny-sad letter from you—on my fifty-fifth birthday. Much obliged. A couple of other family birthdays this month: Allie’s is on the 18th, Father’s on the 23rd. I miss them. Father was a failed artist, but not an envious one. The beautiful work you and Edie are doing now would have given him exactly as much joy as doing it himself. Anybody’s doing good things in the arts made him bubble and croon.
I was looking through the published Letters of Anne Sexton, a Boston poet, a friend of mine who knocked herself off a couple of years ago. In one of the letters she tells of a palindrome she saw written on the side of a barn in Ireland. A palindrome, as you probably know, is a sentence that reads the same backwards as forwards—like “Madam, I’m Adam,” and “Able was I ere I saw Elba.” Here’s the one Anne saw, and it’s the best one I ever heard: “Rats live on no evil star.”
From Dan Wakefield, ed., Kurt Vonnegut: Letters (New York: Delacorte Press, 2012), p. 256. Copyright 2012 by The Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Trust