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Price Realized: $12,500 With Buyer's Premium Show Hammer Price
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Sale 2492 Lot 356
LETTERS TO HIS FAMILY WHILE SERVING IN THE U.S. ARMY KURT VONNEGUT. Archive of 12 letters Signed, "Kay" or "Kurt Jr." or "Pfc. Kurt Vonnegut, Infantry," including 6 illustrated, to his parents or brother Bernard, most in pencil, including 7 Autograph Letters, 4 Typed Letters, and a postcard, on various subjects including the War, love, alcohol, art, etc., sometimes written in the style of a dialogue. Together 22 pages, tall 4to or smaller, mostly on ruled paper, some on pale blue or pale yellow paper, some with loose-leaf punch holes along left edge; minor scattered soiling or smudging (but still legible), few leaves with closed tears at edges, folds. Np, 1930s-40s
Estimate $4,000 - 6,000
To his parents:
[Early 1930s], ALS, "love Kay," written to his father in a childish hand: "My dad[d]y long legs is still excited about going to Indianaplois [sic]. . . . I wrote this letter the day you left. I wrote this letter with ink. Try to send a mastscot [sic]. alicess [sic] oscar Bug [ink drawing by his sister Alice showing an insect wearing shoes] send his love. . . ." On verso is a similar letter to his father headed by a holograph ink drawing showing a long-legged spider.
24 February 1944, ALS: ". . . My immediate future is as much of a question-mark to me as it is to you. . . .
"There . . . were 140,000 A.S.T.P. men. 110,000 are needed for infantry casualty replacements. Of the 30,000 remaining there must be the dental and medical students, 5000 reserve 17-year-olds and engineers more advanced than I. So you see, my priority is quite low and my situation in the balance.
"Methinks if I am returned to troops it will be to the Artillery. . . .
"Life in Knoxville becomes more bearable as more loop-holes in the blue laws come to light. . . ."
30 April 1946: ". . . I have one helluva poor time of it concentrating. . . . I'm full of spectacular aspirations and faith in the field of Anthropology, but sometimes--like this one--I get frantically bored with it.
"Jane is writing an article. . . . Methinks she'll sell it. As you know, I've submitted a couple of things as yet uncommented upon. It is surely a temptation to throw over this filthy town and my frequently baffling studies . . . ."
[1940s], ALS, with pencil sketch showing a bottle of wine and mug of beer across which is a banner bearing a swastika and the word "VERBOTEN!": "An old guard State's Rights man, I say let Tennessee secede from the Union if she wants to. I've done more than just dream: I've written them an anthem and designed a flag--two blivits rampant on a field of mauve. The Anthem is written to the strains of Moe I. Bloom's deathless 'When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along.' The fifth stanza runs--'The Civil War ain't over yet / Ho one will stop us now, you bet. / Hail proud Tennessee, enemy of tyranny . . . etc.' . . . .
". . . That up there is a political cartoon; true, rapier-like and fearless. Knoxville is bone-dry and kept so by the Baptists, Methodists and Bootleggers. Beer is 3.2 and Ale is beer with grape flavoring. . . .
"P.S. . . . If you think this letter is funny please say so. I'd like to try making a living at it and have no honest critics. This is not fishing but a cold, hard-put business question. Reply in kind."
To his brother:
8 July 1944, ALS, with pencil sketch showing a cartoon bald eagle between the words "US" and "ARMY" above a ribbon with the motto, "Semper Confusis": "It has been a fancy of mine, from time to time, to debate as to who has made the greatest forward strides during the past fifty years: the Negro, the Irishman or the female philosophy student. These three turgid days just past have given me abortive cause to observe and consider the last-mentioned minority group.
"Jane Marie Cox has just returned from Swathmore College . . . .
". . . She is in love with a Naval Air Cadet who, in his freshman year at Swathmore . . . stated that he wished to be a professor. He has given the Coxes a Picasso and a Rousseau reproduction which hang in the living room. This proves he's a pretty arty old shit beyond a doubt. I'm thinking of swamping them with enough Last Suppers, Mona Lisas and Blue Boys to paper the whole damn living room just to show them how cultured a person can be. . . ."
[Circa 1944], ALS, with pencil sketch showing a crest with the motto, "Vice, Indolence, Lassitude": ". . . Everyone has a talent or an inclination toward something worthwhile. If he's not born with one, his parents assign one to him. Why in hell did I end up with 'Young Kurt is quite a promising writer--they say.'? You and God's mouthpiece, Alice, write circles around me.
". . . My situation here is briefly this: I'm pulling down $54/month as a Pfc. I'm in advanced mechanical engineering. General Marshall requested that I take this course. When I balked he pulled rank on me. . . .
"Jane's mother having gone insane represents a problem of miserable complexity. If we marry there'll be no children if I can help it. There's nothing either of us wants more than children. I dunno--haven't talked to her for eight months."
"Memorial Day" [May 30] 1946, written in all caps: "THIS IS AN URGENT FLASH: IF YOU GIVE A DAMN ABOUT YOURSELVES AND YOUR SON, THEN YOU MUST WRITE PRESIDENT TRUMAN AT ONCE AND DEMAND THAT THE UNITED STATES MAKE A DEFINITE ATTEMPT TO ORGANIZE A REAL WORLD FEDERATION. THE UNITED NATIONS IS AN ENFEEBLED FIASCO. IF SOMETHING IS NOT DONE WE SHALL ALL BE KILLED. IT IS AS SIMPLE AS THAT-CLEAN CUT, A CHOICE: LIFE OR DEATH. IT WOULD TAKE FIFTEEN HIROSHIMA BOMBS TO WIPE OUT GREAT BRITAIN. THE U.S. STOCKPILE IS ESTIMATE AT FIFTEEN-HUNDRED. . . .
"I'LL NOT FORGET DRESDEN. VICTORY: OVER ONE-HUNDRED THOUSAND HUMAN BEINGS VERY MUCH LIKE YOU TWO AND YOUR SON BURNED, CRUSHED AND SUFFOCATED IN TWENTY-FOUR HOURS. THAT WAS TNT. IF THERE IS ANOTHER WAR AND IF WE 'WIN' IT, LIFE WILL NOT BE WORTH LIVING. . . ."
Provenance: Bernard Vonnegut; thence by descent to his heirs; thence by sale to present owner.Price Realized (with Buyer's Premium) $12,500