Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Collecting Kurt Vonnegut

During my college years (1979-1982) I became spell-bound to the pen of Kurt Vonnegut--a "Hoosier" writer who had long before moved east but whose caustic novels were cause for both trouble and celebration.  No one else wrote (or illustrated) like Vonnegut.

In those early years I read all of Vonnegut's classic work: Slaughterhouse Five, Cat's Cradle, Breakfast of Champions and more.  And I continued to read as Vonnegut poured forth in works like Galapagos, Blackbeard, and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Some months back, while walking downtown Indianapolis (corner of Mass Ave & Delaware) I noted a large mural of Vonnegut.  My wife and kids asked, "Who is that?"  I'm afraid I waxed on in far too much detail about Vonnegut's connections with Indianapolis (Short Ridge High School), his background, his writings, and even offered some quotes from his work.  But he's still there, looking down at the masses on Mass Ave.

Seeing Vonnegut again also tossed me into collector-mode, and over the past two weeks I've been searching through my library to locate all of my Vonnegut titles (I discovered more than a dozen on shelves or in boxes) and I also began scooping up other titles to fill in the gaps.  I have since purchased and read used hardback copies of Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons (various essays), Palm Sunday (a collection of speeches and short work), A Man Without a Country (Vonnegut's final collection before his death) and Look at the Birdie (his uncollected stories assembled by his estate after his death). 

In short, I'm rounding out his body of work.

I don't always find Vonnegut agreeable, but I always find him challenging and entertaining.  And the fact that many of his books (through the years) have been banned by schools and libraries (and burned by "Christian" groups) also endears him to me . . . I absolutely must root for the 1st Amendment.  What's interesting here is that Vonnegut's works contain, at best, only mild language, but plenty of pointed-commentary directed at politicians, our blind trust in the political machinery and in politicians, and the heavy-hand of government.  

Now that I have more than twenty of Vonnegut's titles, I guess I'll keep them around.  I'll drop some back into the storage boxes from whence they came, and others will be used to prop up the other boxes of books that keep flooding into my house and are the cause of much consternation in my wife.

But since she didn't know who Kurt Vonnegut was and has not, to my knowledge, read even a single line of his works, I plan to leave some of these boxes in the middle of the office floor.

Maybe she will trip over Kurt and discover him.

1 comment:

Ned Steele said...

My very favorite writer! Got everything he penned...I do believe. Am curently reading his biography. BTW, the sermon from which the "Palm Sunday" book is named (and which is included in the book) is as fine a sermon as I have ever read.