February 28, 2013

Kurt Vonnegut: A short lecture on short stories


For some reason he wasn’t quite famous for it, but the late, great Kurt Vonnegut used to give lots of public lectures. Later in life they were crankier, more prescriptive, and more about politics, but on the whole he liked to take apart how things worked and your perception of that, and to get a laugh while doing it.

Below is a great example: Four minutes of Vonnegut explaining how stories work. It includes the advice: “Somebody gets into trouble, gets out of it again. People love that story!”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.