Vonnegut: The Truth At Last?

J. Prescott jprescot at PRIMENET.COM
Fri Aug 8 00:32:21 MDT 1997

vonnegut or no, i STILL found it to be a delight.  the fact that it turns
out some newspaper columnist wrote it does not minimize this fact for me.

unless it was a one-time sort of thing, i think i could read some more.


> From: cbnron <cbnron at ADAMS.NET>
> To: RUSHTALK at athena.csdco.com
> Subject: Vonnegut:  The Truth At Last?
> Date: Thursday, August 07, 1997 11:52 PM
> Got this info on another list i'm on - thot it might be of interest to
> who read the "Vonnegut Commencement Address."
> carole
> >>This is from H.A.N.D....
> >
> >Forwarded by Ruth Frear
> >
> >   Vonnegut's MIT "ghostwriter" speaks out
> >
> >Following is the Sunday Chicago Tribune column, dated August 3, 1997, by
> >Mary Smich, the woman whose "Sunscreen" speech was mistakenly identified
> >on the Web as a Kurt Vonnegut commencement address to MIT:
> >
> >Date: Sunday, August 3, 1997
> >Source: Mary Schmich.
> >Parts: 1
> >Copyright Chicago Tribune
> >
> >
> >   I am Kurt Vonnegut.
> >   Oh, Kurt Vonnegut may appear to be a brilliant, revered male
> >I may appear to be a mediocre and virtually unknown female newspaper
> >columnist. We may appear to have nothing in common but unruly hair.
> >   But out in the lawless swamp of cyberspace, Mr. Vonnegut and I are
> >Out there, where any snake can masquerade as king, both of us are the
> >author of a graduation speech that began with the immortal words, "Wear
> >sunscreen."
> >   I was alerted to my bond with Mr. Vonnegut Friday morning by several
> >callers and e-mail correspondents who reported that the sunscreen speech
> >was rocketing through the cyberswamp, from L.A. to New York to Scotland,
> >in a vast e-mail chain letter.
> >   Friends had e-mailed it to friends, who e-mailed it to more friends,
> >all of whom were told it was the commencement address given to the
> >graduating class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The
> >was allegedly Kurt Vonnegut.
> >   Imagine Mr. Vonnegut's surprise. He was not, and never has been,
> >commencement speaker.
> >   Imagine my surprise. I recall composing that little speech one Friday
> >afternoon while high on coffee and M&M's. It appeared in this space on
> >June 1. It included such deep thoughts as "Sing," "Floss," and "Don't
> >too much with your hair." It was not art.
> >   But out in the cyberswamp, truth is whatever you say it is, and my
> >simple thoughts on floss and sunscreen were being passed around as Kurt
> >Vonnegut's eternal wisdom.
> >   Poor man. He didn't deserve to have his reputation sullied in this
> >   So I called a Los Angeles book reviewer, with whom I'd never spoken,
> >hoping he could help me find Mr. Vonnegut.
> >   "You mean that thing about sunscreen?" he said when I explained the
> >situation. "I got that. It was brilliant. He didn't write that?"
> >   He didn't know how to find Mr. Vonnegut. I tried MIT.
> >   "You wrote that?" said Lisa Damtoft in the news office. She said MIT
> >had received many calls and e-mails on this year's "sunscreen"
> >commencement speech. But not everyone was sure: Who had been the
> >   The speaker on June 6 was Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United
> >Nations, who did not, as Mr. Vonnegut and I did in our speech, urge his
> >graduates to "dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living
> >room." He didn't mention sunscreen.
> >   As I continued my quest for Mr. Vonnegut--his publisher had taken the
> >afternoon off, his agent didn't answer--reports of his "sunscreen"
> >kept pouring in.
> >   A friend called from Michigan. He'd read my column several weeks ago.
> >Friday morning he received it again--in an e-mail from his boss. This
> >it was not an ordinary column by an ordinary columnist. Now it was
> >literature by Kurt Vonnegut.
> >   Fortunately, not everyone who read the speech believed it was Mr.
> >Vonnegut's.
> >   "The voice wasn't quite his," sniffed one doubting contributor to a
> >Vonnegut chat group on the Internet. "It was slightly off--a little too
> >jokey, a little too cute . . . a little too `Seinfeld.' "
> >   Hoping to find the source of this prank, I traced one e-mail backward
> >from its last recipient, Hank De Zutter, a professor at Malcolm X
> >in Chicago. He received it from a relative in New York, who received it
> >from a film producer in New York, who received it from a TV producer in
> >Denver, who received it from his sister, who received it. . . .
> >   I realized the pursuit of culprit zero would be endless. I gave up.
> >   I did, however, finally track down Mr. Vonnegut. He picked up his own
> >phone. He'd heard about the sunscreen speech from his lawyer, from
> >friends, from a women's magazine that wanted to reprint it until he
> >he wrote it.
> >   "It was very witty, but it wasn't my wittiness," he generously said.
> >   Reams could be written on the lessons in this episode. Space confines
> >me to two.
> >   One: I should put Kurt Vonnegut's name on my column. It would be like
> >sticking a Calvin Klein label on a pair of Kmart jeans.
> >   Two: Cyberspace, in Mr. Vonnegut's word, is "spooky."
> >
> >
> >

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