I had a sea change in opinion about the works of Vonnegut. I read Slaughterhouse-5 and Cat’s Cradle whilst in high school and despised them both. But then when I started dating my now husband, he convinced me to try God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and then Mother Night. It was shocked how much I liked both books and thus I became a Vonnegut fan. A quotation (below) was part of our wedding ceremony! (I still hate Cat’s Cradle but there are some good quotations from it). So here is a list of my favorite 15 Kurt Vonnegut quotes from his novels, short stories, essays, and interviews.
KURT VONNEGUT QUOTES ON LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND EVERYTHING
“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’” —God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
“There is no order in the world around us, we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.” —Breakfast of Champions
“In nonsense is strength.” —Breakfast of Champions
KURT VONNEGUT QUOTES ON PERSPECTIVE:
“So it goes.” —Slaughterhouse 5
“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” —Player Piano
“Science is magic that works.” —Cats Cradle
KURT VONNEGUT QUOTES ON HAPPINESS:
“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” —A Man Without A Country
“That is my principal objection to life, I think: It’s too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes.” —Deadeye Dick
KURT VONNEGUT QUOTES ON WRITING/LITERATURE/ART:
“I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.”—Paris Review
On short stories: “And it was itself a form of meditation…reading a short story or in a Buddhist story…That’s one form of medicine we don’t use anymore.” —NPR Interview
“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: ‘The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.’” —A Man Without A Country
KURT VONNEGUT QUOTES ON PEOPLE:
“There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too.” —Mother Night
“People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order so they’ll have good voice boxes in case there’s ever anything really meaningful to say.” —Cat’s Cradle
“‘What can any one person do?’ he said.
“‘Each person does a little something,’ I said, ‘and there you are.’” —Cat’s Cradle
The comic book industry has lost another legend. On November 12th, Stan Lee, former writer, editor, and publisher of Marvel, passed away at the age of 95, after an astonishing 79 years of being professionally involved in comics.
Lee was unquestionably the most famous single individual ever associated with the medium, and tributes have poured in from around the world. But the in-industry tributes are notably more measured, more complex, and more restrained than the broader entertainment ones. This speaks not just to the difficulty comics pros and fans are having with reconciling the loss of someone whose influence and brand have permeated the field so completely, but to the fact that over the decades, Lee has become an increasingly controversial figure, one whose contributions are impossible to measure as much for their murky origins as for their extensiveness.
First, the facts: Stan Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber in 1922 to Romanian Jewish immigrant parents, and grew up working class in New York City. In 1939, at the age of 17, he was hired as an assistant at Timely Comics, the company that would become Marvel, doing things like filling inkwells and fetching lunch. He wrote his first stories in 1941, using the pen name “Stan Lee” to hide his real name, since comics were considered unsavory at the time. That déclassé reputation and the attendant lack of competition served him in good stead when he was named interim publisher just before his 19th birthday, although the fact that he kept the company afloat during the tumultuous decade just goes to show what a boy wonder he was. He would remain editor-in-chief until 1972, when he took over as publisher.
After a (non-combative) stint in the military during World War II, Lee returned to Marvel, writing across genres from romance to science fiction. According to popular lore, he was considering leaving comics by the end of the 1950s, but DC had just kicked off the Silver Age with their reinvention of the Flash, and publisher Martin Goodman asked Lee to create a superhero team in response. Lee’s wife Joan suggested he go nuts with it, since, after all, he was going to quit.
And thus Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four, a team of flawed, humanheroes who bickered constantly. They went on to create the X-Men, the Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man; with Steve Ditko, Lee co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange; with Bill Everett, he co-created Daredevil.
At the risk of reiterating an oft-told story, the characters Lee created were shockingly different from the gleaming, square-jawed perfection of their DC counterparts, even if it is hard to look at Reed Richards from the lens of 2018 and see much difference from Barry Allen. The assortment of characters listed above were neurotic. They worried about money. They fought with their loved ones. They pined for impossible romances. Some of them, most notably the Thing, the Hulk, Spider-Man, and of course the X-Men, were shunned by society or trapped in monstrous bodies or both.
They were astonishing. They were spectacular. They were uncanny.
They changed comics.
How, you may ask, did Stan Lee manage to write every Marvel comic for years on end? Well, True Believer, therein lies both the brilliance and the problem. Lee and his artistic collaborators, like Kirby and Ditko, used an approach that’s been dubbed “the Marvel Method.” Lee and the artist in question would discuss the plot of the issue, or Lee would provide a synopsis. The artist would draw the whole dang thing, Lee would request any necessary changes, and finally, when the art was finished, Lee would fill in the dialogue. (Here are a few really fun depictions of how this worked from old school Marvel comics themselves, although please take them with the requisite grain of salt.)
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko poking fun at Lee’s reputation.
The problem was, as Marvel got bigger and Lee’s responsibilities grew, he had less and less time to collaborate. Increasingly, artists were writing the comics too, especially trusted ones like Kirby and Ditko, and Lee was just coming along and tweaking the dialogue. (Sometimes this put the art in opposition to the words, as the fascinating blog Kirby Without Words painstakingly explores.)
In other words, Lee wasn’t really writing the comics anymore, but he was still taking full credit for them—especially because the public at large didn’t (and still doesn’t) really understand how comics are made. Even when an artist is provided with a full script, as was happening at DC then and with most comics now, people unfamiliar with the process tend to assume that the writer is doing all of the creative labor, and the artist is just putting someone else’s genius on paper.
And whatever else Lee was, he was 5’11” of pure charisma, as anyone who’s seen one of his cameos in a Marvel movie knows. He was the voice and the face of Marvel Comics—of the industry, really, because there was never anyone at DC to rival him. He did the interviews. He responded directly to the fans in the letter columns. He splashed his name all over every book.
Stan Lee’s cameo in Marvel’s Iron Man
Therein lies both his tragic flaw and his greatest contribution. Because by branding Marvel Comics with, well, himself, Lee wasn’t just self-aggrandizing. He was giving it a human face. Yes, the face was his own—but that branding did for Marvel as a corporate entity what Peter Parker’s neuroses and the Hulk’s self-loathing did for Marvel as creative entity. It made it real. In an era when DC was aiming for six-year-olds who couldn’t have cared less who Mort Weisinger or Julius Schwartz were, and Disney fans were still referring to Carl Barks as “the good duck artist” because he was forbidden from signing his work, Marvel proudly proclaimed that its comics were made by real people, with quirks and flaws and goofy nicknames. (Smilin’ Stan! King Kirby! Jazzy Johnny [Romita Sr.]!) Check out those Marvel Method comics linked up above. Don’t they endear you to the creative staff, as ridiculous as they are?
Lee helped the readers see the Marvel team as real people…and made it clear that he saw the readers that way too. While DC’s letters at the time are mostly pedantic kids trying to catch DC out on continuity errors (plus ça change…), Lee struck a conversational (if hyperactive) note, and cultivated a playful us-versus-them attitude by referring to Marvel fans as “True Believers” and to DC, tongue firmly in cheek, as both “the Distinguished Competition” and “Brand Ecch.” Under Lee’s reign, comics weren’t just a piece of disposable entertainment you bought for a dime and rolled up in your back pocket. They were an identity. You weren’t just a kid who sometimes read comics (i.e. basically every kid at the time). You were a Marvel fan. You were a True Believer.
Combine that approach with Lee’s (and Kirby’s, and Ditko’s, and so on) cast of outcasts, misfits, and neurotics, and is it any wonder that comics increasingly became a place for readers who felt like they didn’t belong anywhere else? If you felt geeky or monstrous or just plain ordinary, Marvel gave you a place full of people like you, on and off the page. A place to fit in. And yes, this clubhouse for outcasts eventually fostered a community of intensely toxic gatekeeping that we’re still dealing with today (hello, Comicsgate!), but it’s also the reason that comics became an industry supported by passion above all. That’s a complicated thing, but it’s not solely a bad thing. (It’s also worth noting here, would-be gatekeepers, that Lee co-created the first black superheroes in comics with Black Panther and the Falcon, as well as the X-Men with their message of tolerance and acceptance of the Other, and frequently railed against bigotry and hatred in his letter columns. Ahem.)
An anti-racism editorial from Lee in 1968.
And here we return to The Problem, because in branding all of Marvel with his own name, Lee elided and overshadowed the massive contributions made by his cohorts. As much as he praised his collaborators—he frequently referred to Kirby as “the greatest artist of all time” and was the one who dubbed him “the King”—he also made sure that his own name always came first on the masthead. In his telling, he’d be struck with another lightning bolt idea and assign it to Kirby to draw…but to wax rhapsodic, as he frequently did, about how the Fantastic Four came to him belies the obvious fact that they look a heck of a lot like the Challengers of the Unknown, who Kirby created for DC four years prior. In fact, Kirby later claimed to have come up with the original ideas for both the Fantastic Four and the Hulk.
Credit wasn’t just a sticky issue for Kirby—Ditko left Marvel four years after co-creating Spider-Man, by which point he and Lee were no longer speaking to one another, and other contemporary artists such as Wally Wood have taken potshots at Lee for stealing credit—but it looms largest in Kirby’s legacy. This is partially because of his own massive output—he drew over a hundred pages a month for Marvel at its Silver Age peak, a volume that gives me carpal tunnel just to think about—and partially because for the past posthumous quarter century, Kirby’s own star has been on the rise. Many consider him to be, as Lee breezily called him, the greatest comic book artist of all time, an auteur who nearly single-handedly shaped the medium as we know it without ever doing anything so gauche as to say that’s what he did. It helps that the irascible combat veteran, born in poverty and plugging away without recognition for decades, makes a damn fine underdog. Comic book publishers are also notorious for fleecing creators out of the royalties they’re owed for breathing life into billion dollar properties like Superman and the X-Men—and Stan “the Man” Lee, editor and publisher to Kirby’s mere freelance staffer, was literally The Man. Kirby was the exploited genius; Lee was Marvel the Corporate Entity, turning Kirby’s bombastic metaphors for the human condition into breakfast cereal and raking in the cash.
Kirby wasn’t shy about calling Lee out, either. After he left Marvel in the ’70s, he wrote and drew the Fourth World saga for DC: four interlinked series that many consider his magnum opus. In Mister Miracle, he introduced a wheeler-dealer and impresario named Funky Flashman, a false-mustache-and-toupee-clad leech described as “the driven little man who dreams of having it all!!!—the opportunistic spoiler without character or values who preys on all things like a cannibal!!!—including you!!!” (His treatment of Lee’s protégé Roy Thomas, depicted as the sniveling servant “Houseroy,” is even more vicious.)
Funky Flashman and Houseroy in Kirby’s Mister Miracle.
Some Kirby partisans take Funky Flashman pretty much as literally as possible. It’s hard to avoid the temptation. After all, Kirby died in 1994 and Ditko spent the last three decades as a furiously objectivist recluse before dying earlier this year, while Lee popped up in movies and on red carpets and across dozens of branded projects. Someone needs to speak up for the guys who aren’t entering rooms to the tune of their own theme music. (Side note: for more on this history, please read this excellent Lee obituary by Spencer Ackerman.)
And yeah, it can be maddening to see Lee still receiving the lion’s share of the credit for Marvel’s…everything. I’ve seen him hailed for everything from creating Captain America (he was still filling Kirby’s inkwells when Steve Rogers debuted) to the 2012 marriage of Northstar and his husband Kyle (characters he did not create, decades after leaving Marvel). He’d gleefully take credit for ridiculous things, too, like creating the first gay character in comics…because a character he revamped in 1960, the Rawhide Kid, was depicted as gay in a 2003 miniseries.
And yet it was hard to get too angry about it. My reaction to Lee and his spotlight hogging was always less fist-shaking and more your grandpa lying to you about leading the invasion of Normandy. Like, “Aw, Grandpa, that’s not true at all! Here, have another Werther’s.” Heck, I had to go back and revise almost every paragraph of this article when I realized I’d referred to Kirby and Ditko by their surnames throughout, but to Lee as “Stan.” I’m just fond of the guy. I think most of us always will be.
The truth is, it’s impossible to say who “really” created those all those wonderful comics half a century ago, because comics are a truly collaborative art. There’s no separating the story from the pictures, because the pictures are the story and the story is the pictures. Add in the time that’s passed and the fact that everyone involved told a slightly different story in every interview they gave, and you’re looking at leads that went cold decades ago. Besides, if the marriage wasn’t seamless, the comics wouldn’t have been so damn good.
It’s just as impossible to say to what degree Lee took credit or had it given to him, or how much he was motivated by ego, or a shrewd understanding of what was needed for Marvel to thrive, or spite, or simple involuntary charm. Only Lee knew for sure…and honestly, maybe not even him. What matters now, I think, is not assigning credit or blame, but appreciating what all of these creators gave us—and applying the lessons learned to ensuring that creators today get their due, especially in the face of the vastly larger IP factories they work for.
I’ve heard people say that Stan Lee’s death marks the end of an era, but I don’t think that’s an accurate statement. An era is a stage of being, a period in time, a slice of the pie, and Lee wasn’t only a stage. He was there at the beginning; he was here until this month. I don’t know that comics knows how to be comics without him.
What we have as we move into this brave new post–Stan Lee world are the characters he gave us, but perhaps more importantly, the community he built. We have the belief that comics can be smart and incisive; that they can be a place to belong; that heroism lies within the overlooked and the ostracized. He gave us all that great power, and he left us with a great responsibility—and if there’s a chance to wield it more wisely than he did, well, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?
Excelsior, Stan. May your memory be a blessing, always.
Incredible news in the book world this week: Author Margaret Atwood announced there will be a sequel to her novel The Handmaid’s Tale! Titled The Testaments, The Handmaid’s Talesequel is the book many fans of her classic dystopian novel have been eagerly awaiting.
Atwood announced The Handmaid’s Tale sequel on Twitter:
“Yes indeed to those who asked: I’m writing a sequel to The Handmaids Tale. The Testaments is set 15 years after Offred’s final scene and is narrated by three female characters. It will be published in September 2019.”
In her announcement tweet, Atwood also added this short video, with its simple text and background static adding to the ominous feel of The Handmaid’s Tale, and perhaps its coming sequel. “Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book,” the video reads. “Well, almost everything!” Atwood then adds, “The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”
A New York Times bestseller, The Handmaid’s Tale was first published in 1985 and earned huge critical praise. The book is set in the near future under a regime called Gilead. The oppressive government forces the few fertile women into the role of handmaids: women who are enslaved for their ability to reproduce. The story is told through the eyes of Offred, who is a handmaid. Although the identity of the sequel’s three female narrators hasn’t been announced, there is speculation that one of the narrators will be Offred, and a second may be one of the wives of Gilead.
Hulu adapted The Handmaid’s Tale into an Emmy award-winning series in 2017, and the second season aired in spring 2018. Atwood was careful to clarify on her website that The Handmaid’s Tale book sequel “is not connected to the television adaptation.” Though fans of the series can only hope that the new story will be adapted, too!
In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale and the upcoming The Testaments, Margaret Atwood has written over 40 books of fiction, poetry, and essays. The Testaments hits shelves on September 10, 2019, and we look forward to bringing you more details about this exciting sequel as its release date nears!
Novelist and screenwriter William Goldman has died at the age of 87. Peter Jones/Corbis via Getty Images
Novelist and screenwriter William Goldman, who wrote the beloved cult classic The Princess Bride and won Oscars for writing All the President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, has died at 87.
Goldman’s son-in-law, Mike Pavol, tells NPR that Goldman died Friday morning in New York City.
His legend was cemented in Hollywood, but Goldman himself was an avowed New Yorker. He was born in Chicago, went to Oberlin College in Ohio, served briefly in the military and got a master’s in English from Columbia University in New York.
He launched a successful literary career immediately after graduating from Columbia with his first novel, The Temple of Gold. A series of well-received and sometimes bestselling novels followed.
Then, in 1965, Goldman started to shift into movie territory. He helped on the script for Masquerade (1965) and adapted Harper (1966). Then he wrote his first-ever original screenplay.
That beginner’s stab at screenwriting was none other than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It sold for the then-record sum of $400,000 (some $3 million in 2018 dollars) and won Goldman an Oscar in 1970 for best original screenplay.
That was just the start. Goldman went on to adapt The Stepford Wives, adapt All the President’s Men — anotherOscar-winning screenplay — and turn his own novels Marathon Man and Magic into films.
Ten screenplays later, Goldman still didn’t see himself as a Hollywood man. “I’m not a screenwriter,” he told The New York Times in 1979. “I’m a novelist who writes screenplays.”
But he knew enough to write the definitive guide to screenwriting. Adventures in the Screen Trade was published in 1983 and became a bestseller. Screenwriting professor George Huang tells NPR’s Neda Ulaby the book “was like the Bible in the industry” — and that the advice in it still holds up today.
The 1987 film, which Goldman adapted from his own novel, performed modestly at the box office upon its initial release. But as the years passed, it found a passionate following. Lines from the movie have woven their way into the fabric of pop culture — “Inconceivable!” “Aaaaas youuuuu wiiiiiish.” “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
NPR’s Linda Holmes wrote an appreciation of the film on its 30th anniversary last year:
“Like Goldman’s book — which is built on a fictional frame claiming it’s a retelling of an old book by someone named “S. Morganstern” — the film is built as a story that knows itself to be a story. That contributes to its timelessness, because it knows its own old-fashioned qualities, but holds them at a certain distance. When the music swells behind a romantic kiss, for example, we instantly cut to young [Fred] Savage, looking up at his grandfather with suspicion, asking, ‘Is this a kissing book?’ It is a kissing book, although it is also, as his grandfather has promised, full of adventure and sword fights and dangerous creatures. Goldman knew the points of resistance when he wrote the book; that knowledge lives in the film, too.”
Goldman was a craftsman — a master with high standards. And he was self-deprecating about the value of his own work. “I do not think I write particularly well,” he told the Times in 1978.
(In the same interview, he explained that he didn’t work from home, although he could have. Instead he went to an office in New York City five to seven days a week — because “it’s essential that I maintain a sense that what I’m doing is as important as what an insurance man or businessman is doing.”)
His movie oeuvre impressed everyone except, apparently, himself.
“Goldman said with most of them he could only see his mistakes,” Ulaby reports. “He claimed to love only two: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Princess Bride.”
Stan Lee poses with Spider-Man during the Spider-Man 40th Birthday celebration in 2002 in Universal City, California. MICHEL BOUTEFEU/GETTY IMAGES
Born as Stanley Lieber to immigrants, he was an avid reader who dreamed of literary fame. He found his way into comics. First, he filled inkwells in the years when the medium was considered a public menace.
Soon, he was writing comics. He split his first name into two in the credits (he legally changed his name in the 1970s) of his earliest works, implying that his new comics imprint, Marvel, had more writers than it really did. And those credits appeared on stories about heroes who were a little more human than the caped crusaders that dominated the comic book shop shelves. Spider-Man might save the day, but he still has to do his homework. The Fantastic Four were a formidable fighting force that couldn’t stop bickering at times. And Wolverine … well, was Wolverine.
The characters also lived in the real world, and Marvel comics sometimes addressed social issues of the time.
Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them—to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater—one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately.
It wasn’t Lee’s political stances that earned him professional ire, though. From The New York Times:
Mr. Lee was often faulted for not adequately acknowledging the contributions of his illustrators, especially Mr. Kirby. Spider-Man became Marvel’s best-known property, but Mr. Ditko, its co-creator, quit Marvel in bitterness in 1966. Mr. Kirby, who visually designed countless characters, left in 1969. Though he reunited with Mr. Lee for a Silver Surfer graphic novel in 1978, their heyday had ended.
Many comic fans believe that Mr. Kirby was wrongly deprived of royalties and original artwork in his lifetime, and for years the Kirby estate sought to acquire rights to characters that Mr. Kirby and Mr. Lee had created together. Mr. Kirby’s heirs were long rebuffed in court on the grounds that he had done “work for hire” — in other words, that he had essentially sold his art without expecting royalties.
The Marvel characters didn’t stay in the comics forever. As we all know, the screen adaptations of Spider-Man and, later, the Avengers, found gigantic audiences on screen. Marvel now generates billions of dollars in ticket sales with each new blockbuster. The comic books that were once a menace are now a goldmine. And the characters that were once for kids are now for everyone.
Stan Lee may have lived an American story, but then he ended up creating them.
If you’ve been following us here at Book Riot even a little, you’ll have a fair idea of just how in love we are with Angie Thomas’s YA debut novel, The Hate U Give. The book follows Starr Carter, a 16-year-old black girl whose world changes after she witnesses her best friend being shot. The book hit the New York Times Bestseller List, inspired hundreds of young activists, and believe it or not, was banned by some authorities and institutions across the U.S.
If you haven’t had a chance to pick up this beautiful, heartbreaking marvel of a book, you have around a month before we are blessed with the movie adaptation, starring Amandla Stenberg, KJ Apa, Issa Rae, and Regina Hall. The book has everything, from profound words about black activism and police brutality to cozy, quippy family banter. I have no doubt the movie will be a gorgeous inspiring tearjerker, and here are some of my favourite The Hate U Give quotes I’d love to see come to life.
Funny how it works with white kids though. It’s dope to be black until it’s hard to be black.
What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?
Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.
You can destroy wood and brick, but you can’t destroy a movement.
Your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be the roses that grow in the concrete.
‘Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared, Starr,’ she says. ‘It means you go on even though you’re scared. And you’re doing that.’
I’ll never forget. I’ll never give up. I’ll never be quiet. I promise.
At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.
My nana likes to say that spring brings love. Spring in Garden Heights doesn’t always bring love, but it promises babies in the winter.
“What is Tumblr anyway? Is it like Facebook?”
“No, and you’re forbidden to get one. No parents allowed. You guys already took over Facebook.”
It’s also about Oscar.
It’s even about that little boy in 1955 who nobody recognized at first—Emmett.
If you’re still not sold on Angie Thomas’s magic:
What are your favorite The Hate U Give quotes? Oh, and if you’re here because you loved the book as much as we did, we gotcha. Here’s a list of brilliant books if you’re looking for read-alikes!