Notes and Quotes – Kurt Vonnegut

– Notes and Quotes –


Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

Player Piano (1952), God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965), Slaughterhouse Five (1965)


Player Piano (1952)

“Anita,” said Finnerty, “if you don’t show more respect for men’s privacy, I’ll design a machine that’s everything you are, and does show respect.”

She colored. “I can’t say I find you screamingly funny.”

“Stainless steel,” said Finnerty. “Stainless steel, covered with sponge rubber, and heated electrically to 98.6 degrees . . . . And blushes at will . . .”

“And I could make a man like you out of a burlap bag filled with mud,” said Anita. “Anybody who tries to touch you comes away dirty!” (???).


Muscle work, routine work, brain work . . .

“. . . the First Industrial Revolution devalued muscle work, then the second devalued routine mental work.” (12-3).


“. . . the third revolution . . . . machines that devaluate human thinking.” (13).


“‘How gay can a party get?’” (14).


“. . . prevent the waste of competition.” (19).


“. . . whoring expedition . . .” (41).


“. . . the one about the little girl rabbit in the rabbit hardware store . . .” (46).


“‘Those who live by electronics, die by electronics. Sic semper tyrannis.’” (52).


“‘I’m going home now, before these gentlemen sportsmen find a rope.’” (52).


“‘. . . they’re a fine bunch of slaves.’” (57).

“. . . if these not slaves, how you get them to do what they do?” (57).

“Patriotism . . . . Patriotism, damn it.” (57).


“. . . there was more to living than laying and he’d like a little glory by God and there might be laying and glory overseas . . .” (58).


“Policy isn’t thinkin’, it’s a reflex.” (67).


“What would a psychiatrist say about it?” (72).

“He’d say it was a swat at my old man, who never went anywhere without a Homburg and a double-breasted suit.” (72).


“Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” (73).


“It isn’t knowledge that’s making trouble, but the uses it’s put to.” (80).


“Finnerty sat at the player piano . . .” (91).


“. . . bad old days . . .” (101).



“. . . God’s will or the Devil’s laxness.” (111).


“‘To hell with you.’” (118).


“To hell with it.” (120).


Finnerty on Thoreau and Emerson:

Emerson: “‘Henry, . . . . why are you here?’” (123).

Throeau: “‘Ralph, why aren’t you here?’” (123).

Paul: “‘I should want to go to jail?’” (123).

Finnerty: “‘You shouldn’t let fear of jail keep you from doing what you believe in.’” (123).


“Idle hands do the devil’s work.” (124).


“. . . to hell with the whole system.” (127).


“. . . cut off from the boiling rapids of history, society, and the economy. Timeless.” (130).


“The way a man lives can destroy or decrease the stature of his job – can increase or decrease the stability and prestige of the entire system.” (130).


“. . . integrity. This pipsqueak of a man in a pipsqueak job had pipsqueak standards he was willing to lay his pipsqueak life down for.” (131).


Haycox: “What kind of doctor?” (133).

Proteus: “Doctor of Science,” (133).

Haycox: “Don’t call that kind a doctor at all. Three kinds of doctors: dentists, vets, and physicians.” (133).


Rosicrucians – Esoteric Lucidity


“You can tell him I’ve taken up hashish to speed up my reaction time.” (147).


“That man’s got a lot of get up and go,” (149).

“He fills me with lie down and die,” (149).


“These people are just your fellow Americans.” (150).

“Just because they were born in the same part of the world as I was, that doesn’t mean I have to come down here and wallow with them.” (150).

“Anita hated Homesteaders . . . . if [Paul] hadn’t married her, this was where she’d be, what she’d be.” (150).


“No electricity?” (157).

“Only what’s in your hair.” (157).


“God knows it’d be easy enough to stick with the system and keep going right on up. It’s getting out that takes nerve.” (158).


“Hell, everybody used to have some personal skill or willingness to work or something he could trade for what he wanted. Now that the machines have taken over, it’s quite somebody who has anything to offer. All most people can do is hope to be given something.” (159).

“If someone has brains . . . . he can still get to the top. That’s the American way . . . . Brains and nerve . . .” (159).


“Call Me Paul or Pay Me $5.” (164).


“. . . omen analysis . . .” (165).


“‘There goes the merit system,’” (168).


“. . . oldsters . . .” (174).


Barber Bigley of Elm Wheeler: “The war made him, and this life would of killed him.” (178).


“. . . the only chance [the kinds in the Army now’ll] get to be anything is if there’s a war.” (178).


De mortuis nil nisi bonum.” (194). (Nothing but good concerning the dead.)


“If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you’re a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind.” (198).


“Son-of-a-bitch could be softened with a smile, but not saboteur.” (202).


“. . . it never rains but that it pours.” (205).


“Better to be nothing than a blind doorman at the head of civilization’s parade.” (205).


W-441 – Fiction Writer

W-440 – Fiction Journeyman

W-225 – Public Relations


Anti-machine theme: “He didn’t care. He had to write it, so he wrote it.” (211).


“. . . somebody’s got to be maladjusted; that somebody’s got to be uncomfortable enough to wonder where people are, where they’re going, and why they’re going there.” (212).


“. . . some of the greatest prophets were crazy as bedbugs.” (212).


“With machines you get quan-titty, but you don’t get qual-itty. Know what I mean?” (218).


“The conductor’s plaint . . . . wasn’t that it was unjust to take jobs from men and give them to machines, but that the machines didn’t do nearly as many human things as good designers could have made them do.” (219).


“. . . battle-wise eyes . . .” (220).


“Sarge, what was the best piece you ever had?”

“A little redheaded half-Swede, half-Egyptian in Farafangana,”

“Boy! I hope that’s where they send me.”

“That much of a fine old American military tradition . . . . send me where the tail is.” (222).


“‘Finnerty was right,’ she sobbed. ‘All you need is something stainless steel, shaped

like a woman, covered with sponge rubber, and heated to body temperature.’” (216).


“A policeman dismounted from the back of the shiny black vehicle and waved a riot gun at Paul. “All right, all right, no loitering there!”

Paul started to move on, lingering an instant longer for a glimpse of the prisoner, who sat deep in the wagon’s dark interior, misty, futile, between two more men with riot guns.

“Go on, beat it!” shouted the policeman at Paul again.

Paul couldn’t believe that the man would actually loose his terrible hail of buckshot on a loiterer, and so loitered a moment longer. His awe of the riot gun’s yawning bore was tempered by his eagerness to see someone who had made a worse botch of getting along in society than he had.” (229-30).


“The Dutch, its paneling antiqued by the condensation from breaths of generations of adolescent alcoholics, was packed and noisy, and in almost every hand was the drink fashionable that season, benedictine and Pluto water, with a sprig of mint.” (238).


Dr. Edmond L. Harrison: “Here you are at a crossroads, my boy. You’re lucky. Not many crossroads left for people. Nothing but one-way streets with cliffs on both sides.” (241).


“. . . keep the hell away from the head of the procession, where you’ll get it in the neck if you can’t get a lump in your throat over the ups and downs of a bunch of factories.” (242).


Do? That’s just it, my boy. All of the doors have been closed. There’s nothing to do but to find a womb suitable for an adult, and crawl into it. One without machines would suit me particularly” (243).


“[Machines are slaves] . . . they compete with people . . . . Anybody that competes with slaves becomes a slave,” (243).


“What’s a ghost shirt?” murmured Paul between prickling lips.

“Toward the end of the nineteenth century,” said Lasher, “a new religious movement swept the Indians in this country, Doctor.”

“The Ghost Dance, Paul,” said Finnerty.

“The white man had broken promise after promise to the Indians, killed off most of the game, taken most of the Indians’ land, and handed the Indians bad beatings every time they’d offered any resistance,” said Lasher.

“Poor Injuns,” murmured Paul.

“This is serious,” said Finnerty. “Listen to what he’s telling you.”

“With the game and land and ability to defend themselves gone,” said Lasher, “the Indians found out that all the things they used to take pride in doing, all the things that had made them feel important, all the things that used to gain them prestige, all the ways in which they used to justify their existence – they found that all those things were going or gone. Great hunters had nothing to hunt. Great fighters did not come back from charging into repeating-arms fire. Great leaders could lead the people nowhere but into death in hopeless attack, or deeper into wastelands. Great religious leaders could no longer show that the old religious beliefs were the way to victory and plenty.” (249).

“And the Ghost Dance religion,” said Lasher, “was that last, desperate defense of the old values.” (250).


“The machines are to practically everybody what the white men were to the Indians. People are finding that, because of the way the machines are changing the world, more and more of their old values don’t apply any more. People have no choice but to become second-rate machines themselves, or wards of the machines.” (251).


“I could do with a little more dignity and maturity in our operations, because those are the things we’re fighting for. But first of all we’ve got to fight, and fighting is necessarily undignified and immature.” (251).


“This business of one set of values being replaced by force by another set of values has come up often enough in history-“ . . . . “Among the Indians and the Jews and a lot of other people who’ve been tyrannized by outsiders,” (251).


“Machines and organization and pursuit of efficiency have robbed the American people of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (272).


“. . . he was proud and smiling because his hands were busy doing what they liked to do best . . . . replacing men like himself with machines.” (293).

“To all the good Indians . . .” (294).

“To a better world,” he started to say, but he cut the toast short, thinking of the people of Ilium, already eager to recreate the same old nightmare . . . . To the record . . .” (294).


Echolalia, Lazaretto




God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)

“And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed.” (13).


Pop goes the weasel . . .


“The hell with the talented little sparrowfarts who write delicately of one small piece of one mere lifetime, when the issues are galaxies, eons, and trillions of souls yet to be born.” (18).


…2BRO2B… (Ethical Suicide Parlor . . . NapStore)


“. . . what Trout had in common with pornography wasn’t sex but fantasies of an impossibly inhospitable world.” (20).


Golden Age of Rome (24-6).


“I’m going to be an artist! . . . . I’m going to love these discarded Americans, even though they’re useless and unattractive. That is going to be my work of art.” (38).


Avondale Yahooism (41).


“Samaritrophia . . . . hysterical indifference to the troubles of those less fortunate than oneself.” (41).

“[Samaritrophia/Enlightened Self-interest] is essentially the black and white Jolly Roger, with these words written beneath the skull and crossbones, ‘The hell with you, Jack, I’ve got mine!’” (42).


The Senator of Eliot Rosewater: “What a noble mind id here o’erthrown!” (47).


“He treated me like he was a cow and he was a drunk veterinarian.” (60).


Written on the mensroom wall at the Log Cabin Inn:

“We don’t piss in your ashtrays,

So please don’t throw cigarettes in our urinals.” (68).


“If you would be unloved and forgotten and forgotten, be reasonable.” (68).


“I twisted her arm until she opened her legs, and she gave a little scream, half joy, half pain (how do you figure a woman?), as I rammed the old avenger home.” (70).


“I’ve written the key into law! The difference between pornography and are is bodily hair!” (72).


“. . . . he is what we call a pervert!” (73).


“I’m a stranger in all parts.” (75).


“That’s for me to know and you to find out.” (76).


Those who write on Heaven’s walls

Should mold their shit in little balls.

And those who reads these lines of wit

Should eat those little balls of shit. (79-80).


“Foxcroft and Melody.” (86).


“Is this a dream? How did I ever get into such a disreputable condition?” (88).


The Money River (88).


“The girl was a showgirl. Her name was Randy Herald.” (98). (. . . begging to be implanted with genius seeds.” (180).)


“. . . one hell of a sexy paperback novel, Venus on the Half-shell, by Kilgore Trout.” (114).

“[Trout] looked like a frightened, aging Jesus, whose sentence to crucifixion had been commuted to imprisonment for life.” (115).


Bunny Wailer (reggae): “Bunny Weeks loped into The Jolly Whaler . . .” (124).


“Bunny was the great grandson of the famous Captain Hannibal Weeks of New Bedford, the man who finally killed Moby Dick.” (125).


“And look who’s winning. And look who’s won.” (131).


“This is America! And America is one place in this sorry world where people shouldn’t have to apologize for being poor.” (144).


“. . . Flowers and tears / Rosewater, good-bye.” (170).


“The thing was that Earth was the only place in the whole known Universe where language was used.” (173).


“. . . F. Scott Fitzgerald, with one day to live.” (182).


“. . . the soul-rot and silliness and torpor and insensitivity are exactly as horrible as anything epidemic . . .” (184).


“Think of the sacrilege of a Jesus figure redeeming stamps.” (185).


“Keep away from the booze, remember who you are, and behave accordingly . . . . And don’t play God to people, or they will slobber all over you, take you for everything they can get, break commandments just for the fun of being forgiven – and revile you when you are gone.” (186).


“Joy.” (187).




Slaughterhouse Five (1965)

“Goodness me, the clock has struck –

Alackaday, and fuck my luck.” (98).

“People would be surprised if they knew how much in this world was due to prayers.” (103).

“How nice–to feel nothing and still get full credit for being alive.” (105).