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Like Shaking Hands with God: A Conversation About Writing

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  800 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
In this elegantly produced, extended conversation celebrating the writing craft, Kurt Vonnegut and acclaimed "Grand Central Winter" author Lee Stringer explore what it means to be a writer -- and what it means to be human. It is an increasingly rare occasion these days to find two writers willing to speak candidly, thoughtfully, and concretely about the intersection of lif ...more
Paperback, 80 pages
Published December 1st 2000 by Washington Square Press (first published October 5th 1999)
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Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutCat's Cradle by Kurt VonnegutBreakfast of Champions by Kurt VonnegutThe Sirens of Titan by Kurt VonnegutMother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut's Best
38th out of 38 books — 525 voters
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13th out of 30 books — 1 voter

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,013)
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MJ Nicholls
Lissom pamphlet containing two short conversations between Lee Stringer (who?) and Kurt The Vonnegut. No need for this to exist except as further KV completist fodder.
Fictionista Du Jour
A very short read. The first half reported on a book reading held in 1998, in which Lee Stringer and Kurt Vonnegut discuss their new books. The second half deals with a private follow-up conversation that the authors had.

I especially liked the way they brought Mark Twain and heaven and Hell into it.

My favorite passage, an excerpt from Stringer's book "Grand Central Winter":

"When it comes to justice, the kind that gets you locked up is different than the kind you find inside. Personally I would
Ray Godfrey
Jul 04, 2011 Ray Godfrey rated it liked it
I almost always approach books like this one with a high-lighter and red pen ready to pull out the gems and become part of the conversation. However, this book really didn't offer me much in the way of any formal note taking or even profound reflections. Upon first reading I only highlighted five expressions (an all-time low for an OCD reader like myself) throughout the entire text. This was probably due in large part to the extreme brevity of the text. I just didn't want these conversations to ...more
John Esterly
Nov 10, 2014 John Esterly rated it really liked it
This book was more a reflection on the craft by the two writers than any kind of guide for writing. That said, it was an enjoyable, quick read - I finished it in about an hour. The book is essentially the transcript of two sessions, one public and one private, in which Vonnegut and Stringer are interviewed after the releases of their two most recent novels. It is an interesting comparison of Vonnegut, who is at the end of his successful career, and Stringer, who just finished and released his fi ...more
Joseph McBee
Jan 15, 2012 Joseph McBee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful little book filled with all sorts of powerful tidbits about writing. Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers, and although I have never heard of Stringer, now that I have, I will make sure to read his books.

It's books like these that make me want to continue to pursue writing. As Vonnegut says (and this was my favorite quote from the book):

"Practicing any art is not a way to make money or become famous. It's a way to make your soul grow. So you should do it anyway."

Good stuff
Richard Gartee
Nov 21, 2014 Richard Gartee rated it liked it
Recommends it for: other writers
This is a tiny little volume, really no longer than a magazine interview, but as the subtitle accurately states is a conversation by two writers about writing. My favorite line: The door to hell is locked from the inside.
Jennifer Willis
Apr 09, 2013 Jennifer Willis rated it really liked it
I am a Vonnegut fan, and I enjoyed reading these interviews. It is a slim volume, though this book does offer some thoughtful advice and words of wisdom to others trying to make a living with words.
Mar 02, 2011 Denise rated it it was amazing
I liked this book so much I wrote a blog post about it:
Maria Arney
Dec 29, 2009 Maria Arney rated it it was amazing
Amazing! Everyone should read these interviews. It will make you feel better. It will make you feel human. Beautiful!
Daniel Jr.
Jul 19, 2014 Daniel Jr. rated it it was ok
Worth every penny of the twenty-five cents I paid for it. But how this ever became a book for which one pays ten bucks, I will never understand. It's tiny and contains about three interesting paragraphs total, which are couched between pages and pages of rambling, commonplace observations from two uncomfortable guys who are never not aware that the tape is rolling.

Vonnegut and Lee Stringer are incredible writers. Enter into their respective oeuvres for the big payoffs. This little book adds not
Brandon Pierce
Aug 04, 2013 Brandon Pierce rated it really liked it
I thought this transcribed conversation was going to be less dispirited than it was but considering the two authors conversing I'm not certain why I thought that. It was inspiring, to be sure. The addendum diner conversation was probably the most thrilling portion. The reading was interesting but the four men just shooting the shit round a cafe table elucidated the personal ethos of each of them so nakedly and without the unavoidable pretense a reading supports. I'm glad I bought the book even t ...more
Oct 26, 2009 Loren rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all writers
I think what I most took away from Lee and Kurts conversations is that in order to be a writer you have to be passionate about something and you have to have experiences worthy of sharing in a poignant way. I also liked the comment Lee made about how Greg Ruggiero asked if he was an activist. "and it occurred to me afterward that before you had the guys marching, you had the people who reported poverty and war....before the action, there has to be the question....I just like asking the questions ...more
John Bobo
Jul 30, 2015 John Bobo rated it it was amazing
Ostensibly a conversation about writing --but more about living. A great read for anyone who practices the arts.
Jan 24, 2013 Tine! added it
Short, and thankfully has enough prologues to put the conversations into context. Helpful if you like your authors with a dash of background. Not powerful enough on its own to have inspired me to start reading either Vonnegut (who I already, thankfully, read) or Stringer (who I was formerly totally unfamiliar with). Nice enough to feed the inspirational flames of personal composition initiative. Highly/bizarrely recommended reading - discovered via the coincidence of doing so myself - alongside ...more
Tyler Swope
Feb 02, 2013 Tyler Swope rated it really liked it
A fantastic look into both Stringer and Vonnegut's views on writing. Though I have never read Lee Stringer before, I can tell he is a very gifted, intellectual individual who takes his writing and the writing of others seriously. And Vonnegut is, as always, sarcastic, thought-provoking, and hilarious throughout this little manuscript of conversation. I would suggest anyone who enjoys either one of these authors or has an affinity for discussions about writing read this book. It will be an hour y ...more
Sep 06, 2013 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer's "Like Shaking Hands With God: A Conversation About Writing" is a transcript of two conversations between the legendary Vonnegut, and Stringer, a former homeless drug addict-turned-writer. They discuss the act of writing, how it affects the writer himself, and the relationship the writer has to his readers and society. While it's not a hugely profound book, nor a how-to for aspiring writers, both men offer perspectives that are well worth the reader's attention.
Christine Fay
Mar 31, 2015 Christine Fay rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an extremely brief record of a conversation with Vonnegut and Stringer about the act and art of writing. Any individual has a novel within them that they, and only they, can write. The act of writing is like having a conversation with a higher power, when you are truly at one with your reflective and meditative self. Both authors advise against writing for an audience. Write for yourself, and if someone likes it, great, then you can make a living out of it – maybe.
Actually a double author interview with Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer. Some good things are said. Worth the read.
Dec 29, 2013 Raven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
has been on my required Vonnegut reading list for a while, but turned me on to Stringer's work.
Favorite Quote: "Saving myself is going to be a lifetime job, so I don't really know if I can really get to a point where I have the time or wherewithal to save the next guy."
"If you have a hell of a lot in your mind, the language will arrive"
that cute little red-eyed kitten
Nice little book, which is a type-down of two conversations about life and litterature between Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favourite authors, and Lee Stringer, whom I'd never heard of before. Not particularly interesting if you don't like at least one of the two. Some good book tips in between. And one and other wise, witty or wry remark.

And Kurt Vonnegut compares writing to being a good blind date. That's pretty much what it is, I guess.
David Gorgone
Oct 09, 2013 David Gorgone rated it liked it
The only reason why I didn't give more stars is because I wish there was more. I have a feeling that seeing it live would have been so much better. It isn't so much a book about writing, but a look at their own writing lives. That in itself is way more compelling. Taking into consideration how different their paths were it is amazing how they both came to very similar conclusions about writing. It is too short, but still worthwhile.
Aug 30, 2012 David rated it really liked it
A very interesting brace of transcribed conversations, featuring Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer. The latter wrote a book about his experiences as an urban homeless person, and the pieces are set around the publication time of the former's Timequake. The writers' explorations of the personal aspects of writing are particularly absorbing.
Nicole Cushing
Composed of two transcripts from talks given by Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer, this thin volume offers a few insights on the writing life that are interesting to mull over (but nothing earth-shattering). Are there better books about writing? Yes. But Vonnegut and Stringer make an interesting enough duo to make this book worth your $9.95 and the one hour of your life it will take to read it.
Paul Agusta
Aug 14, 2007 Paul Agusta rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the mechanisms and dynamics of creative writing.
this tiny thin book is basically a transcript of a conversation between the great Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer (who then had just released his memoir of homelessness, Grand Central Winter).

In this rich conversation, the 2 authors discuss their own approaches to writing and their relationship with the craft.

This book is a must for anyone interested in writing. It has taught me a lot.
Jun 21, 2013 Sav3mys0ul rated it liked it
I was hoping to get more insight of the two great minds, ideas about writing but it didn't live up to expectation. It was a quick read and I think it'd have been better if I had listened to watched the interview.
But the two concepts Lee talks about future novels is interesting:
- You are only as sick as your secrets.
- The door to hell is locked from the inside.
Mar 05, 2013 Paul rated it liked it
I picked this up at a used book store, as it looked interesting. It's very thin, but it is indeed thought-provoking. I've not read Lee Stringer, but I've long been a fan of Vonnegut, so this seemed worth a read. There are several amusing bits of conversation, and useful things for writers to consider. It's not a must-read, but if you're intrigued, give it a read.
Jun 19, 2013 Lee rated it did not like it
I read this book in an hour, and I am not a fast reader. It's two guys talking. One of them happens to be Vonnegut, but, the other guy is not all that interesting, their talk is not particularly interesting, it is only sometimes concerned with writing. All and all, this was a pretty crummy book to have Vonnegut's name on it. Thoroughly disappointed.
Chanel Earl
Jul 20, 2012 Chanel Earl rated it liked it
It's not as inspiring as I hoped it would be, but has some neat ideas about writing as a profession. I appreciated the observation that the audience of novels is actually quite small, not as large, for example as the pop music audience. Readers not only have to be literate, but also imaginative, and intelligent enough to understand irony.
Mar 04, 2013 Natlukens rated it liked it
Finally finished this, not because it was bad but because I moved in between starting and finishing it. More about Lee Stringer, who I hadn't heard of before than about Vonnegut. Short little thing about being writers and not a lot of substance but what is there is good. Had some good quotes but I lost the pages and need to return it.
Jun 22, 2014 Joon rated it really liked it
I read this book chilling at Borders a long time ago. I went out and bought it recently just because a specific line stuck out to me and I wanted to find it again:

"...the wisdom every two-bit con knows instinctively, that real justice is always poetic." -Lee Stringer

I guess I should read one of Stringer's books next.
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Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.

He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journali
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