I am very real. (1 Diatribe)

I apologize in advance for the reading required to enjoy this post, but it's worth it..

In October of 1973, Bruce Severy — a 26-year-old English teacher at Drake High School, North Dakota — decided to use Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, as a teaching aid in his classroom. The next month, the head of the school board, Charles McCarthy, demanded that all 32 copies be burned in the school's furnace as a result of its "obscene language." Other books soon met with the same fate.
For those of you unfamiliar with Slaughterhouse-Five, it is a satirical novel by Kurt Vonnegut about World War II experiences and journeys through time of a soldier called Billy Pilgrim. Ranked the 18th greatest English novel of the 20th century by Modern Library, it is generally recognized as Vonnegut's most influential and popular work.

On the 16th of November, Kurt Vonnegut sent McCarthy the following letter. He didn't receive a reply.

November 16, 1973

Dear Mr. McCarthy:

I am writing to you in your capacity as chairman of the Drake School Board. I am among those American writers whose books have been destroyed in the now famous furnace of your school.

Certain members of your community have suggested that my work is evil. This is extraordinarily insulting to me. The news from Drake indicates to me that books and writers are very unreal to you people. I am writing this letter to let you know how real I am.

I want you to know, too, that my publisher and I have done absolutely nothing to exploit the disgusting news from Drake. We are not clapping each other on the back, crowing about all the books we will sell because of the news. We have declined to go on television, have written no fiery letters to editorial pages, have granted no lengthy interviews. We are angered and sickened and saddened. And no copies of this letter have been sent to anybody else. You now hold the only copy in your hands. It is a strictly private letter from me to the people of Drake, who have done so much to damage my reputation in the eyes of their children and then in the eyes of the world. Do you have the courage and ordinary decency to show this letter to the people, or will it, too, be consigned to the fires of your furnace?

I gather from what I read in the papers and hear on television that you imagine me, and some other writers, too, as being sort of ratlike people who enjoy making money from poisoning the minds of young people. I am in fact a large, strong person, fifty-one years old, who did a lot of farm work as a boy, who is good with tools. I have raised six children, three my own and three adopted. They have all turned out well. Two of them are farmers. I am a combat infantry veteran from World War II, and hold a Purple Heart. I have earned whatever I own by hard work. I have never been arrested or sued for anything. I am so much trusted with young people and by young people that I have served on the faculties of the University of Iowa, Harvard, and the City College of New York. Every year I receive at least a dozen invitations to be commencement speaker at colleges and high schools. My books are probably more widely used in schools than those of any other living American fiction writer.

If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don’t damage children much. They didn’t damage us when we were young. It was evil deeds and lying that hurt us.

After I have said all this, I am sure you are still ready to respond, in effect, “Yes, yes–but it still remains our right and our responsibility to decide what books our children are going to be made to read in our community.” This is surely so. But it is also true that if you exercise that right and fulfill that responsibility in an ignorant, harsh, un-American manner, then people are entitled to call you bad citizens and fools. Even your own children are entitled to call you that.

I read in the newspaper that your community is mystified by the outcry from all over the country about what you have done. Well, you have discovered that Drake is a part of American civilization, and your fellow Americans can’t stand it that you have behaved in such an uncivilized way. Perhaps you will learn from this that books are sacred to free men for very good reasons, and that wars have been fought against nations which hate books and burn them. If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.

If you and your board are now determined to show that you in fact have wisdom and maturity when you exercise your powers over the eduction of your young, then you should acknowledge that it was a rotten lesson you taught young people in a free society when you denounced and then burned books–books you hadn’t even read. You should also resolve to expose your children to all sorts of opinions and information, in order that they will be better equipped to make decisions and to survive.

Again: you have insulted me, and I am a good citizen, and I am very real.

Kurt Vonnegut

[Source: lettersofnote.com]

  • mike

    who wants to put together a boston chive meet up?

    • 2pumpdump

      Fuck Boston. That is all

      • That is all

        Fuck yourself, dick breath.

      • BostonChiver.

        Let me guess…you're from NY…the land of the most obnoxious accents, terribles sports teams and a signature garbage scent. You have a lot going for you.

        • fuck boston

          I hate to say it, but the Boston accent is the most obnoxious in the world…… fuck Boston

          • BostonChiver.

            The only Boston accents you fucks have ever heard is the shitty fake ones that you've seen in The Departed or on 30 Rock, or really any Boston movie that doesn't have Walburg/Damon/Affleck in it. If you lived here, which you clearly don't, you'd hear the real deal, which is nothing like a the Long Island, Bronx, Brooklyn nasally shit.

            • mello

              ALL you FACKING YANKEES FUCKK OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

              • BostonChiver.

                Oh boy.

              • Nick

                I think he mad

            • ROK247

              affleck was in 'the town' and he sounded like a faaackin jagoff hee hee j/k im from wisconsin wtf do i know?

          • Canadian Chiver

            All you americans hating on Boston and NY (my opinion both awesome) need to learn to love… Chirping where each of you live really makes you feel better about yourselves? your both from America get over it Take some time scroll through the DAR KCCO

            • MylesofStyles

              After reading your comment, I want you to know that I'm hoping you didn't wrinkle your skirt or fracture your wrist while writing it. Oh, and just for the record: *you're

          • xspader

            clearly never met and Australian…

        • Nickincollege

          Really? Cuz I'm pretty sure the Giants won the Super Bowl…. and this is coming from a Pats fan.

          • BostonChiver.

            You can't be a Pats fan if you just uttered those words.

            Would we have lost if Gronk had a healthy ankle? I think not.

            • Nickincollege

              I'm just accusing you of a false statement, that's all. You said NY sports teams are terrible and that's not completely true and you know it.

              And yeah, Eli Manning has got to be the luckiest SOB alive. I can't stand him or the Giants. And what makes it worse is that he made that "I'm an Elite qb" statement and his luck got him through the season to a Super Bowl win. And I feel like luck is what got him 2007 Super Bowl too.

            • Nickincollege

              And don't get me wrong, he's good… but not Tom Brady good.

        • Art

          I dunno… I heard those Giants are kinda an okay team

    • Jeff

      Right on man

    • Backseat Chiver

      Sounds cool. what are thoughts?

      • mike

        how about a thursday night after work. maybe the bell in hand or something like that. we can reserve either the first floor, or the upstairs (to the right) room. maybe some thurs in may/june. 7pm'ish?

        • BostonChiver.

          Fuck that place…let's do something like Rattlesnake or Lir. Lir 3rd floor is always a good time for a private event.

          • RufioRufioRuFi

            Lets do it, 3rd floor Lir, 10 oclock?

          • mike

            i'm all for it. i was just throwing something out there. let's firm up the details.

        • http://www.cupcakesbymartha.com MarthaJeane

          I would try and make it. All schedule pending of course, but a Thursday night is great.

          • BostonChiver.

            We need more than one chivette

            • http://www.cupcakesbymartha.com MarthaJeane

              Set a date and I'll see if I can round up friends.

            • svp

              i would go but i'm only 20 and i live in worcester :/

              • BostonChiver.

                Do like every other college kid…

            • iChive

              you're from boston. You don't need chivettes. You need chivudes.

              • BostonChiver.

                If that was your attempt at a joke…it was horrible.

    • Robert

      I'm in

    • http://echogeo.wordpress.com/ echogeo

      Here we go again. Invite Kurt.

      • call me Noam

        Kurt Vonnegut is dead. I must be Noam Chomsky

        • http://echogeo.wordpress.com/ echogeo

          Which is why I said invite him. His showing up is just as likely as this meet up.

    • Bmac

      I am a DJ & I think the chivers in Boston & all around the world should have a Chive party!!

      • jani eats balls.

        So you know how to work iTunes? Awesome skillz!!!!!! (i used a "z" to show how awesome your skillz are. Dang, there it is again! Double awesome!!)

        • BostonChiver.

          Whoa! You're a good troll!

    • http://www.facebook.com/mhatfield markhats

      Im in!! ill grab a few people i know as well… lets get that going

      • billpants

        Invite Eli Manning

        • etcrr = Stan

          awesome!!! Fuck Boston!

    • Master_Rahl

      damn, lots of Boston hate on the Chive. I guess if people are hating, there must be something to be jealous about. Rock on Boston! I'd go to a meet up. F the haters.

    • LucretiusCarus

      Depends on the day and venue, but I'm otherwise down for it. Especially since I start drinking again soon.

      And maybe suggesting here as the first post wasn't the smartest move–but it did get noticed.

      and you have to expect Boston hate from people. It always happens, though I'm not sure why. Guess fomenting a revolution that gave our country autonomy warrants douchebag comments. *shrug*

      • BostonChiver.

        If you can't grin in bare it when the hate is thrown your way, you're not fit for this town. We have the greatest sports teams, some of the hottest women in America (walk down the fin district and tell me otherwise) and the two oldest bars in 'MERICA.

        Let's get the meet up going, there seems to be quite a few of us interested…maybe Chive HQ should get involved and we can do it real big.

        • brumfield

          how did your football team do in the Super Bowl??? Eli who???

          • BostonChiver.

            Wow, so original! How do you come up with this material?? I GUARANTEE you if Gronk was healthy you'd be singing a different tune.

            • Nickincollege

              Agreed. When I saw him come up limping after he messed up his ankle. I knew it would be bad for the Super Bowl.

            • Eli

              Really you can GUARANTEE that (bullshit)…. Eli Manning is an elite QB and if you stopped suckin Brady's dick you would be able to see it.

        • LucretiusCarus

          Like I said, I'm down for it. And I'm used to Boston hate. Went to school with a bunch of douche bag Long Islanders. We should really make this happen.

    • guest

      fuck the celtics

    • Tommy Boy

      I hooked my entire office on the chive, there'd be about 50+ people there from our place of business.

      • David Spade

        You work in a gay bar, don't you?

    • LuvsHorror

      I'm confused, why so many down votes? I mean, I can't go, but what's wrong with this idea? I was even thinking we need a national Chive day and everyone who has a Chive shirt wears it that day. See how many across the world we can get.

    • 13rit_tiny

      Ooookay, on an unrelated note, as a Massachusetts Chivette (western MA, actually), I would absolutely be down for a Boston/ New England Chiver meet-up. I'd love to see this happen! Keep me in the loop.

      • Frenzied

        I'm in as well. How about in the common, like the good ole days? Then we can hit a bar and get wrecked

    • KeepCalm617

      I could probably make it.

    • http://thelowerclassman.blogspot.com Lowerclassman

      Yes. I know a few of the people at LIr, and Thursdays work pretty well for reservations there because the Pour House does a Caribbean night that packs people in, so Lir never gets too crazy

  • billshakes626


    • mbomb

      I concur.

      slow clap, leading to standing ovation.

      • banananah

        There's nothing extraordinary about honest and fair human reaction to certain things.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=606371253 Shannon Coverdale

    Too long, didn't read

    • Frank

      Then fuck off.

    • labatanga

      Come to the comments…just to say you didn't read it?

    • Kenny

      Then you are one of the people he is speaking about…..

      • RufioRufioRuFi

        Bahahaha WIN

      • Lev

        "Too long, didn't read, then burned." – This Guy

    • @bunkerpunkk

      "Too long, didn't read" (read: "simple fuck, can't read")

    • arTee

      Spoken like a true loser.

    • Ned_Plimpton

      And your name is Shannon.

      • Chris

        HA! Girl name!!!

    • I.Heart.BBQ

      You should check out Theawesomer.com thats more your speed.

    • George

      Wow, harsh comments for what was most likely a sarcastic remark.

      • http://www.facebook.com/crookedhalo999 Mark P Constable

        There's a time and a place for sarcasm. This isn't one of them.

        • Captlazarus

          Oh really? Sarcasm is soooo uncool.

          • Derp

            And the pope shits in his hat

        • smokemcbear

          haha mark, you pompous prick.

      • Chris

        Sarcastic or boring, painfully unfunny, and ridiculously obvious?

        Bad jokes deserve harsh comments.

    • Chris

      You are a simple minded idiot aren't you? Didn't read probably because you cannot read.

      • shane23

        Yeah dickhead…. he can't read, yet he was able to write a comment?

      • Bam

        Stop being a fucking asshole, pussy.

    • Si1entStatic

      I know right, I only made it through the first quarter of Vonnegut's letter before I started searching Google for Mr. McCarthy's home address so I could FedEx a flaming bag of dog shit to his front step……

    • Wild Bill

      You may eat a bag of dicks on behalf of Kurt Vonnegut. Hopefully you find one that's the right length.

      • Lil John

        Ah, the ignorant and proud.

        • Wild Bill

          Ignorant? No. Very little patience for trolls.

      • non-profit

        on behalf of kurt if you did read, i dont think that would be his wishes towards this individual

        • Wild Bill

          You're probably right.

    • DickFister

      You, sir (I'm assuming you are a "sir" or a very ugly woman) are what is wrong with this country. Too lazy to read a short letter by one of the most accomplished writers of our time. Books by Mr. Vonnegut such as Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions were both a pleasure and a treasure when I was a youngster.

      But I'm certain I have just wasted my time because I'm sure you're too fucking lazy to read these words, as well.

      But here are two I'm sure you're familiar with: FUCK YOU.

      • shane23

        Sut the fuck up you arsehole. You are all a bunch of butthole kissing faggots. In fact the only time regular posters of the chive aren't kissing someones arse is when they are sucking someones dick.

      • J-Z



      don't be proud of your ignorance.

    • TDub66

      Too long, can't read. There, fixed it for you.

    • Shameless1

      Stop feeding the troll

      • arTee

        Not sure if really good troll..
        or really bad person.

    • David

      Not enough pictures of tits for you?

    • Underbaker

      I'm impressed, it takes real troll skills to get -1K on the thumbs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jbruce1029 Jeremy Nanerpus Bruce

    That's amazing

    • mello

      Not really…Just a book, brah, fuck off.

    • shane23

      What the fuck is so amazing about a letter? Millions of letters have probably been written in the past with as much passion as this guys. Who gives a fuck.

  • Everything

    Kurt Vonnegut was such a literary badass. We need more writers like him.

    • nonprophet

      Slavoj Zizek is a living philosopher-king

    • MattyDeuce

      I teach high school English and have a poster of Vonnegut hanging in my room and hate when kids ask who he is, or when I get the statement, "wait, that's not Edgar Allan Poe." If only I had the American Lit curriculum…love this guy.

      • Everything

        I actually teach English as well. I know what you mean about students who say they don't know him — scary to think that he might be passed over in a lit curriculum — but when that does happen, it also gives me the opportunity to hand them my old copy of "Cat's Cradle" and say, "Get ready for the ride of your life."

        • Greg

          Thank you to both for sharing Kurt with your students. He's a national treasure and should never be forgotten. I am the man i am today in part because of his writing. Keep it up!

          • MattyDeuce

            Always great to hear when someone has actually been moved to better themselves or at least experienced some sense of open-mindedness due to literature. My students (10th graders) often tell me that I should be teaching Twilight, and my response is usually along the lines of "if I wanted to vomit, I would definitely consider picking up one of those 'books,' but since I enjoyed breakfast today, and I value my college education, we will continue with [insert any other REAL author's name here]. For an interesting read, check out Vonnegut's Look at the Birdie, a previously un-published book of short stories (came out within the past 5 years) it is satire at its finest, as per usual.

            Sorry for the long response…just felt the need to "express myself."

            So it goes.

            • Hehehe

              You should start teaching 'em Tom Robbins.

            • Bokonon

              I actually saw this book last night for the first time and snatched it up! Im so excited! Vonnegut F-T-W

    • Epitomizer

      Amazon Downloads of Slaughterhouse-Five
      4/3/12 – 7
      4/4/12 – 1,000,000

      • Underbaker

        I love to read, but don't find much time these days between work and family, so I have turned my 45 min driving commute to my job into my reading time by checking out books on CD from the local library. This is great because you will often listen to books you wouldn't normally read (I love Sci-Fi and Fantasy). I will have to look for his books so I can get a little more cultured.

      • Guest

        This is true 😀

  • longshot

    slow clap

    • Sistine Chiver

      kurt chant

      • Johnny K.

        So it goes…

    • gage

      slow clap indeed! haha

  • m&m

    Very well written and he’s a boss

  • labatanga

    Vonnegut is in my top 3 authors of all time.

    If you haven't ready "Cat's Cradle" or "Slaughterhouse Five". I highly recommend it. In fact, I demand it. They are must reads. Not trying to be an elitist- just trying to share the good word.

    • xavi00

      Siren's of Titan is my favorite

      • majorfathead

        Me too

      • Sveete

        I read that book 30 something years ago. And for some reason I still wonder about a chrono-synclastic infundibulum.

    • Chris

      Breakfast of champions is another great book by Vonnegut

    • jimmyj

      Read Slaughterhouse Five a few years ago, it was a great book. Actually just picked up Cat's Cradle a few days ago.

    • https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1064188593 Josh Gorter

      Mother Night is equally as good as Slaughterhouse Five.

      • Brother Maynard

        Mother Night is one of my favorite books.

    • mike~

      My english teacher senior yr of high school suggested i do my thesis on him, ended up reading cat's cradle and it was unreal, unlike anything i've ever even imagined. Ended up reading everything he wrote while working at the local pharmacy that summer going into college.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1847016807 Mike Klug

      Bluebeard is excellent too

    • Half of America

      Twilight is better

      • labatanga

        ahhh-hhaaa, I get it. Well played.

    • http://twitter.com/NickArts323 @NickArts323

      I hate how being knowledgeable is equal to being elitist these days. I would question any person of authority who is interested in keeping the masses ignorant in order to keep themselves in power.

      • Sveete

        I am despised at work by the people who are only as smart as hammers.

  • BradBehavior

    Written just like a Vonnegut novel. Only real.

  • Grant

    I am a librarian. Rock on, Vonnegut.

  • gruffguano

    … OK, you twisted my arm. Now I wanna read 'Slaughterhouse 5'. Sounds a bit like 'Catch 22', which was superb.

    • Swenka

      Read it for a Lit class. Definitely a book I held onto and didn't sell or toss out. In fact, it is on my bookshelf to my left.

      • gruffguano

        Catch 22 ? I still have it too. Albeit in a less orderly fashion. Crammed in a book closet somewhere. When the pressure from adding books becomes too high, and the closet explodes, I'll read some of them again.

  • Gursh

    In Short…fuck you.

  • http://www.thechive.com HostosFQ

    like a fucking boss

  • KeepCalmDriveOn

    #1 Hero

    • TheAutomaticMan

      Herro to you too 😉

  • Benjamin

    I have never commented on the Chive before. Today, I feel I must.

    That was beautiful.

  • ahugefan


  • shawthomas

    True, and nicely put

  • Kilgore Trout

    So it goes…

    • SouthWard


      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511107628 Carlos Patino

        beat me to it…by nine hours

    • fpatastic

      vonnegut would salute you for your choice of name, as do I

    • Ken

      And somewhere a dog barked.

  • matt

    Slaughterhouse-5 is one of the best books i have ever read and now Kurt Vonnegut has cemented his status as probably my favorite author of all time. Well done, Mr. Vonnegut.

  • Rpl

    Vonnegut is by far one of my favorite authors of all time and this letter just reconfirmed that for me

  • arTee

    "If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own."

    Well said.

    • Couvs

      IMO the same should be said for any free nation.

    • Sean

      …including the idea that wishes to burn books…just sayin'. Thought I'd play devil's advocate.

      • MacNCheesePro

        True, that's why he also said….

        "This is surely so. But it is also true that if you exercise that right and fulfill that responsibility in an ignorant, harsh, un-American manner, then people are entitled to call you bad citizens and fools. Even your own children are entitled to call you that."

  • Tex

    Where did this letter come from? Did the recipient publish it?

    • johnnysixtoes

      I was thinking that too, if he sent the only copy in existence… maybe McArthy died and his heirs found the letter?

    • K1Strata

      It looks like it was put in Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage. I haven't found any reason as to if it came from McCarthy or if he actually kept a copy of what he wrote for his own records despite what the letter says.

    • Havaard

      THANK YOU! I thought no one would ask.

    • ccatsurfer

      He said McCarthy had the only copy. Mr Vonnegut would still have the original.

    • ma nam a borat

      It was probably stuffed into a file somewhere and sat in a dusty room full of boxes of files until one day a young, ambitious new secretary for the school who waitressed on the side to fund her dreams of one day moving to Paris, decided to organize that old room and make better use of the space. She then discovered the letter, published it, made millions selling people the right to reprint it and bought a lavish mansion in Paris, where she now owns several successful fine dining establishments, and employs aspiring young people with dreams of moving to America.

  • Montag

    amazing. It's what Ray Bradbury anticipated 1953!

    • Royce

      Also a fantastic book. I was introduced to it in high school. Fahrenheit 451… At least I believe that is the book you are referring too. Also a must read!

    • Timothy

      Irony knocking. Bradbury has become such a right-wing crank in his old age.

  • https://www.facebook.com/biddulphm Michael Biddulph

    Wow that was powerful and if you didnt read this post you are stupid and ignorant

  • WinstonSmith

    @Shannon Coverdale – you are exactly the idiot Vonnegut was speaking of. Unless I missed your sarcasm, if so … well played.

    • Shannonisagirlname

      It wasn't sarcasm…he's an ignorant fuck that just like to look at the T&A posts.

    • toastymoe

      he's probably one of those people that looks to see how many pages a book has, before he decides whether to read it or not

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