> Skip to content
  • Published: 31 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9781609806101
  • Imprint: Seven Stories Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $32.99

If This Isn't Nice, What Is? (Even More) Expanded Third Edition

The Graduation Speeches and Other Words to Live By



Best known as one of our most astonishing and enduring contemporary novelists, Kurt Vonnegut was also a celebrated commencement address giver.

For this first-ever paperback edition of If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?, the beloved collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s campus speeches, editor Dan Wakefield has unearthed three early gems as a sort of prequel—the anti-war Moratorium Day speech he gave in Barnstable, Massachusetts, in October 1969, a 1970 speech to Bennington College recommending “skylarking,” and a 1974 speech to Hobart and William Smith Colleges about the importance of extended families in an age of loneliness.

Vonnegut himself never graduated college, so his words of admonition, advice, and hilarity always carried the delight, gentle irony, and generosity of someone savoring the promise of his fellow citizens—especially the young—rather than his own achievements.

Selected and introduced by fellow novelist and friend Dan Wakefield, the speeches in If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? comprise the first and only book of Vonnegut’s speeches. There are fourteen speeches, eleven given at colleges, one to the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, one on the occasion of Vonnegut receiving the Carl Sandburg Award, and now the anti-war speech he gave just months after the publication of Slaughterhouse-Five, as well as from related short personal essays—eighteen chapters in all. In each of these, Vonnegut takes pains to find the few things worth saying and a conversational voice to say them in that isn’t heavy-handed or pretentious or glib, but funny, joyful, and serious too, even if sometimes without seeming so.

  • Published: 31 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9781609806101
  • Imprint: Seven Stories Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $32.99

About the author

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922 and studied biochemistry at Cornell University. An army intelligence scout during the Second World War, he was captured by the Germans and witnessed the destruction of Dresden by Allied bombers, an experience which inspired his classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five. After the war he worked as a police reporter, an advertising copywriter and a public relations man for General Electric. His first novel Player Piano (1952) achieved underground success. Cat's Cradle (1963) was hailed by Graham Greene as 'one of the best novels of the year by one of the ablest living authors'. His eighth book, Slaughterhouse-Five was published in 1969 and was a literary and commercial success, and was made into a film in 1972. Vonnegut is the author of thirteen other novels, three collections of stories and five non-fiction books. Kurt Vonnegut died in 2007.

Also by Kurt Vonnegut

See all

Praise for If This Isn't Nice, What Is? (Even More) Expanded Third Edition

"If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? is a spectacular read in its entirety, brimming with Vonnegut’s unflinching convictions and timeless advice to the young."—Maria Popova, Brainpickings.org “Like [that of] his literary ancestor Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut’s crankiness is good-humored and sharp-witted.”—A.O. ScottThe New York Times Book Review "Like so much of Vonnegut's work, these speeches combine absurdist humor, pessimism and countercultural politics, with improbably and disarmingly charming results."—Troy Jollimore, Chicago Tribune's Printers Row Journal "If This Isn't Nice, What Is? is a blast of pure acid."—Entertainment Weekly "The material here offers us a slightly different lens, a different window, extending across a wide range of time and geography, from Fredonia College in Fredonia New York in 1978 to Eastern Washington University in Spokane in 2004, and framed by not just Vonnegut’s sense of humor but also of humanity, his faith in our essential decency."—David Ulin, The Los Angeles Times "These delightful scattershot commencement speeches offer fresh clues to what lay behind Kurt Vonnegut's twinkly visage—clues that are well worth celebrating."—Peter Matthiessen

Related titles