Kurt Vonnegut Quotes 1–30 of 306 Quotes

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (November 11 1922 – April 11 2007) was an American novelist known for works blending satire, black comedy, and science fiction.

Below are 30 of 306 sourced Kurt Vonnegut quotes. Sources and related information appear under each quote. Use the 'Cite this quote' link to get citation references.

“I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts. This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews "Physicist, Purge Thyself" in the Chicago Tribune Magazine (22 June 1969)

“High school is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews Introduction to Our Time Is Now: Notes From the High School Underground, John Birmingham, ed. (1970)

“I was taught in the sixth grade that we had a standing army of just over a hundred thousand men and that the generals had nothing to say about what was done in Washington. I was taught to be proud of that and to pity Europe for having more than a million men under arms and spending all their money on airplanes and tanks. I simply never unlearned junior civics. I still believe in it. I got a very good grade.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews As quoted by James Lundquist in Kurt Vonnegut (1971)

“All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let's get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States—and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews As quoted in "An Interview with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Carey Horwitz, Library Journal, Apr. 15, 1973: 1131

“Well, I've worried some about, you know, why write books … why are we teaching people to write books when presidents and senators do not read them, and generals do not read them. And it's been the university experience that taught me that there is a very good reason, that you catch people before they become generals and presidents and so forth and you poison their minds with … humanity, and however you want to poison their minds, it's presumably to encourage them to make a better world.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews "A Talk with Kurt Vonnegut. Jr." by Robert Scholes in The Vonnegut Statement (1973) edited by Jerome Klinkowitz and John Somer October 1966), later published in Conversations With Kurt Vonnegut (1988), p. 123

“I was taught that the human brain was the crowning glory of evolution so far, but I think it’s a very poor scheme for survival.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews As quoted in The Observer [London] (27 December 1987)

“1. Find a subject you care about. 2. Do not ramble, though. 3. Keep it simple. 4. Have the guts to cut. 5. Sound like yourself. 6. Say what you mean to say. 7. Pity the readers.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews As quoted in Science Fictionisms (1995), compiled by William Rotsler

“Literature is idiosyncratic arrangements in horizontal lines in only twenty-six symbols, ten arabic numbers, and about eight punctuation marks.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews Public conversation with Lee Stringer, in Like Shaking Hands With God (1999)

“What television does is rent us friends and relatives who are quite satisfactory. The child watching TV loves these people, you know -- they're in color, and they're talking to the child. Why wouldn't a child relate to these people? And you know, if you can't sleep at 3 o'clock in the morning, you can turn on a switch, and there are your friends and relatives, and they obviously like you. And they're charming. Who wouldn't want Peter Jennings for a relative? This is quite something, to rent artificial friends and relatives right inside the house.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews Interviewed by Frank Houston, "The Salon Interview: Kurt Vonnegut", Salon (October 8, 1999)

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“The telling of jokes is an art of its own, and it always rises from some emotional threat. The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews Interviewed by J. Rentilly, "The Best Jokes Are Dangerous", McSweeny's (September 2002)

“One of the great American tragedies is to have participated in a just war. It's been possible for politicians and movie-makers to encourage us we're always good guys. The Second World War absolutely had to be fought. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. But we never talk about the people we kill. This is never spoken of.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews Interviewed by Roger Friedman, "God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut", FoxNews.com (11 November 2002)

“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."”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews "Knowing What's Nice", an essay from In These Times (2003)

“We're terrible animals. I think that the Earth's immune system is trying to get rid of us, as well it should.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews On humans, interviewed by Jon Stewart, The Daily Show (13 September 2005)

“I have wanted to give Iraq a lesson in democracy — because we’re experienced with it, you know. And, in democracy, after a hundred years, you have to let your slaves go. And, after a hundred and fifty years, you have to let your women vote. And, at the beginning of democracy, is that quite a bit of genocide and ethnic cleansing is quite okay. And that’s what’s going on now.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews Interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show (13 September 2005)

“I do feel that evolution is being controlled by some sort of divine engineer. I can't help thinking that. And this engineer knows exactly what he or she is doing and why, and where evolution is headed. That’s why we’ve got giraffes and hippopotami and the clap.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews On evolution vs. "intelligent design", interviewed by Jon Stewart, The Daily Show (13 September 2005)

“[When Vonnegut tells his wife he's going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is, is we're here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Quote source: Various interviews Interview by David Brancaccio, NOW (PBS) (7 October 2005)

“Where is home? I've wondered where home is, and I realized, it's not Mars or someplace like that, it's Indianapolis when I was nine years old. I had a brother and a sister, a cat and a dog, and a mother and a father and uncles and aunts. And there's no way I can get there again.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#18

Quote source: Various interviews As quoted in "The World according to Kurt" in Globe and Mail [Toronto] (11 October 2005)

“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD WAS MUSIC”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Vonnegut, Kurt (2021, August 5) Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#19

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#19

Use MLA (Modern Language Association) style for the humanities, especially language and literature.

Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#19

Quote source: Various interviews As quoted in "Vonnegut's Blues For America" Sunday Herald (7 January 2006)

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“The only difference between Bush and Hitler is that Hitler was elected.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#21

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Vonnegut, Kurt (2021, August 5) Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#21

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#21

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#21

Quote source: Various interviews As quoted in "Kurt Vonnegut's 'Stardust Memory'" by Harvey Wasserman in The Free Press (4 March 2006); in actuality, Hitler also wasn't elected by a clear majority vote. Although the Nazi Party was elected to the largest number of seats in the Reichstag, it did not have a majority, and could only form a government through a coalition. Eventually, Hitler was appointed as Chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg, and used that position as leverage to gain dictatorial powers.

“I don't think there would be many jokes, if there weren't constant frustration and fear and so forth. It's a response to bad troubles like crime.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#22

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Vonnegut, Kurt (2021, August 5) Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#22

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#22

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#22

Quote source: Various interviews Interview Public Radio International (October 2006)

“People hate it when they're tickled because laughter is not pleasant, if it goes on too long. I think it's a desperate sort of convulsion in desperate circumstances, which helps a little.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Use APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the sciences.

Vonnegut, Kurt (2021, August 5) Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#23

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#23

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#23

Quote source: Various interviews Interview Public Radio International (October 2006)

“My theory is that all women have hydrofluoric acid bottled up inside.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#24

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Vonnegut, Kurt (2021, August 5) Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#24

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#24

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#24

Quote source: Various interviews On difficulties with women, as quoted in "Kurt Vonnegut, Writer of Classics of the American Counterculture, Dies at 84" by Dinitia Smith in The New York Times (11 April 2007)

“My brother got his doctorate in 1938, I think. If he had gone to work in Germany after that, he would have been helping to make Hitler's dreams come true. If he had gone to work in Italy, he would have been helping to make Mussolini's dreams come true. If he had gone to work in Japan, he would have been helping to make Tojo's dreams come true. If he had gone to work in the Soviet Union, he would have been helping to make Stalin's dreams come true. He went to work for a bottle manufacturer in Butler, Pennsylvania, instead. It can make quite a difference not just to you but to humanity: the sort of boss you choose, whose dreams you help come true. Hitler dreamed of killing Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals, Communists, Jehovah's Witnesses, mental defectives, believers in democracy, and so on, in industrial quantities. It would have remained only a dream if it hadn't been for chemists as well educated as my brother, who supplied Hitler's executioners with the cyanide gas known as Zyklon B. It would have remained only a dream if architects and engineers as capable as my father and grandfather hadn't designed extermination camps — the fences, the towers, the barracks, the railroad sidings, and the gas chambers and crematoria — for maximum ease of operation and efficiency.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#25

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Vonnegut, Kurt (2021, August 5) Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#25

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#25

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#25

Quote source: Various interviews Speech at MIT (1985), referring to his brother Bernard Vonnegut, and the choices available to scientists and the intelligent, to serve humanity, or to betray it, as published in Fates Worse Than Death (1991), Ch. 12

“During the war, in hundreds of Iliums over America, managers and engineers learned to get along without their men and women, who went to fight. It was the miracle that won the war — production with almost no manpower. In the patois of the north side of the river, it was the know-how that won the war. Democracy owed its life to know-how.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#26

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Vonnegut, Kurt (2021, August 5) Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#26

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#26

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#26

Quote source: Player Piano (1952):
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Avon (Bard Books) Chapter 1 (p. 9)

“Anita had the mechanics of marriage down pat, even to the subtlest conventions. If her approach was disturbingly rational, systematic, she was thorough enough to turn out a credible counterfeit of warmth.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Vonnegut, Kurt (2021, August 5) Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#27

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#27

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#27

Quote source: Player Piano (1952):
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Avon (Bard Books) Chapter 1 (p. 25)

“It was an appalling thought, to be so well-integrated into the machinery of society and history as to be able to move in only one plane, and along one line.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#28

Use APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the sciences.

Vonnegut, Kurt (2021, August 5) Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#28

Use Chicago style for business, fine arts, and history.

Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#28

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#28

Quote source: Player Piano (1952):
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Avon (Bard Books) Chapter 4 (p. 41)

“When Paul thought about his effortless rise in the hierarchy, he sometimes, as now, felt sheepish, like a charlatan. He could handle his assignments all right, but he didn’t have what his father had, what Kroner had, what Shepherd had, what so many had: the sense of spiritual importance in what they were doing; the ability to be moved emotionally, almost like a lover, by the great omnipresent and omniscient spook, the corporate personality. In short, what Paul missed was what made his father aggressive and great: the capacity to really give a damn.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#29

Use APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the sciences.

Vonnegut, Kurt (2021, August 5) Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#29

Use Chicago style for business, fine arts, and history.

Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#29

Use MLA (Modern Language Association) style for the humanities, especially language and literature.

Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html#29

Quote source: Player Piano (1952):
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Avon (Bard Books) Chapter 6 (pp. 66-67)

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Vonnegut, Kurt (2021, August 5) Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html

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Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html

MLA Citation: Use MLA (Modern Language Association) style for the humanities, especially language and literature.

Vonnegut, Kurt. “Kurt Vonnegut Quotes: 1–30 of 306 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Kurt-Vonnegut-quotes.html

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