V.p. S.i., 1963-1971. 1. TLS from Kurt Vonnegut to Bill Corrigan, June 24, 1963. 1 leaf, recto only, signed "Kurt" in pencil; with original mailing envelope, franked, postmarked June 25, 1963.
Vonnegut thanks Corrigan for coming to see his play, which he expects to overhaul completely and open with a new cast in November. He apologizes for not being as hospitable as he could have been, and offers to take Corrigan out for lunch or dinner next time he's in New York. He writes that Dave Swift has "blown two jobs so far," and seems happy to be "part of what the Department of Labor calls 'the hard core of the unemployed.'"
2. TLS from Kurt Vonnegut to Bill Corrigan, October 28, 1963. 1 leaf, recto only, signed "Kurt" in pencil; with original mailing envelope, franked, postmarked October 28, 1963.
Vonnegut seems unsurprised that Corrigan is having trouble with getting good grades in math, but assures him that it means he is in a good school, and predicts that Corrigan "will suddenly catch on, and find the math child's play," as Vonnegut once did. He apologizes that he will not be able to host Corrigan over the weekend, suggesting he ask Dave Swift instead. "I'm working like hell, right through weekends, so I wouldn't be able to give you much time. You'd just be hung up here, with no way to move."
3. TLS from Kurt Vonnegut to Bill Corrigan, December 20, 1964. 1 leaf, recto only, signed "Kurt" in pencil; with original mailing envelope, franked, postmarked December 21, 1964.
"Have a good Christmas, former student of mine. Try not to knock it. It isn't all bad. The part about the baby is lovely." Vonnegut's next book, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, is in galley stages, just waiting for "those whose opinions matter." It is due out on April 5th. He hopes that Corrigan has "struck Goldwater from [his] honors list, as has [his] nation." He's glad to hear that Corrigan is learning about Chicago, which, to him, "will forever mean America." He offers his name as a connection, should Corrigan ever meet Nelson Algren, Harry Mark Petrakis, or Anita O'Day. "If you come across Anita O'Day, tell her I love her deeply. She will have no idea who I am. If I were to meet her, I would faint."
4. TLS From Kurt Vonnegut to Bill Corrigan, April 7, 1965. 1 leaf, recto only, signed "Kurt" in pencil; with the original mailing envelope, franked, postmarked April 5, 1965.
Vonnegut writes after returning from his publicity tour for God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. "All of the reviews so far (Life, SR, HT) have been big and sensationally favorable -- so, for a change, everything is coming up roses." The remainder of the letter is is full of consolation and deep concern for Corrigan in the wake of his mother's suicide. "You break my heart with news of how tough you are, how tough you've had to be. I doubt you are in a frame of mind to thank God for much just now, but He did give you some things that have saved you and will continue to save you...He gave you some brilliance and electricity and style. He made you sufficiently crazy to be of some use in entertainment or the arts." In a particularly revelatory portion, Vonnegut writes about his own mother's probably suicide. "My mother may or may not have killer herself when I was twenty. If she did do it, she did it with sleeping pills. The coroner didn't give a damn one way or another, so no effort was made to find out. She was a wildly unhappy person, and there were plenty of pills around. She was fifty-two. She was dead one morning, and that was that. My sister and I found her." Through his own keen insight, he offers sage advice: "For the rest of your life, suicide may occur to you more than it occurs to most people as a reasonable, even attractive way out of difficulties. When that alternative does present itself, know it for what it is, something that was hung on you by your mother's tragedy. It's a piece of junk. Spit on it. Throw it away."
5. TLS from Kurt Vonnegut to Bill Corrigan, December 8, 1965. 1 leaf, recto only, signed "Kurt" in pencil; with the original mailing envelope, franked, postmarked December 9, 1965.
Vonnegut writes from the Iowa Writer's Workshop, and worries that Corrigan only takes risks with unlikely outcomes, rather than surer bets. He notes even those at the Writer's Workshop who are risking trying to become full-time writers can at least fall back on teaching, and hopes that Corrigan has thought about his back-up plan. "If a guy tells me he's going to be a writer or nothing, I throw him the hell out. "Don't come back," I tell him, "until you've got at least one good alternative." So what's yours? [...] Put my old tired heart at ease, and tell me that you have a conservative side. "What's to be conserved? you ask? Billy Corrigan."
6. TLS from Kurt Vonnegut to Bill Corrigan, December 15, 1965. 1 leaf, recto only, on State University of Iowa stationary, signed "Kurt" in pencil; with the original mailing envelope, franked, postmarked December 15, 1965.
Vonnegut writes on his way home from the Iowa Writer's Workshop. He assures Corrigan that he is only asking about his future plans because "it is the clear duty of old friends of young people to fret like maiden aunts." He hopes that Corrigan has the confidence to be assertive and arrogant enough to make his way in the entertainment business. "I pray you're becoming more arrogant than you used to be, because the sort of business you're in calls for a lot of gall. Some classy threads would help, including a bullet-proof vest, and as I've already said, gall. If you really want to dance and act and all that, do it tomorrow."
7. TLS from Kurt Vonnegut to Bill Corrigan, December 11, 1968. 1 leaf, recto only, signed "Kurt Vonnegut, Jr." in felt-tipped pen; with the original mailing envelope, franked, postmarked December 11, 1968.
Vonnegut is glad that Corrigan is making his way in entertainment, and hopes he'll be able to write some of his own material once he gets more established in the movie business. Vonnegut has just finished his new novel (Slaughterhouse-Five), part of which appeared in the October 26 issue of Ramparts. "I still teach now and then, and like it. I was a lecturer at the University of Iowa for two years. I'm starting to sniff around for another job -- maybe in San Francisco. I'm a great riot fan."
8. TLS from Kurt Vonnegut to Bill Corrigan, February 9, 1971. 1 leaf, recto only, signed "Kurt" in ink; with the original mailing envelope, franked, postmarked February 9, 1971.
Vonnegut writes from his apartment in New York City, which he has rented because of plays he is helping produce, including one of his own composition. He apologizes for being delinquent in responding to correspondence: "I haul a big duffel bag full of unanswered letters from place to place." Dave Swift visits the Vonneguts regularly in Cape Cod, and has become close with Jim Adams. Vonnegut hopes Corrigan is still involved in the arts, reminding him, "you were a very talented boy when I knew you." Item #4227
Collection of eight TLS from Vonnegut to William "Bill" Corrigan, a former student of his at Hopefields Riverview School, where he began teaching in 1962. "After the nosedive of Mother Night he [Vonnegut] needed money again, and so he applied for a teaching job at Hopefields Riverview, a private school for developmentally delayed or behavior-disturbed boys on route 6A between Sandwich and Barnstable. Without a college degree, he was technically unqualified to teach, but Hopefield Riverview was private and the headmaster, after reviewing his application, offered to hire him on two conditions: he would have to dress neater (he was fond of tennis shoes and rumpled cardigans that he tended to button up wrong) and be clean-shaven...As it turned out, he was a natural at teaching - relaxed, friendly ready to talk to the boys about ideas, and encouraging" (Shields, Charles J. And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut - A Life, p.175). It was in this setting that Vonnegut met Corrigan, a troubled young man he befriended, and with whom he maintained an on-again, off-again correspondence. The letters cover an eight-year period, beginning in 1963 when Corrigan was in college; all are full of warmth and humor, and no small measure of care and concern.