1922-2007 Award-winning American author.

One of the great masters of Satire who mercilessly lampoons the foibles of modern American society. I discovered him in high school where we were required to read Slaughterhouse Five. I thought of him as my favorite author of all time for many years. You don't have to "work" to read his books. I rued the day I would finish them all.

John Updike once said that reading a Vonnegut novel was like eating an ice cream cone.

His works include:

He studied chemistry at Cornell, served in the infantry during World War II, and was awarded an MA in Anthropology at the University of Chicago afterward.

Falls under the categories of Books that will induce a mindfuck and Books you loan out to expand friends' minds.

Related Nodes:

Sources: http://www.vonnegut.com/ http://web.mit.edu/sbl/www/vonnegut/ Oh, and I read every book he ever wrote Last Updated 05.14.04

A bizarre, lunatic genius with a unique voice. One of my favourite authors. If I ever get to meet him, I'd like to ask him "Why?" so that he can tell me "Why not?" For some reason, this will be immensely satisfying to me. Of course, the real question is "How the hell does he do that?"


His books are hearbreakingly sad, and hilariously uplifting - sometimes in the same breath.
They pull off the neat trick of being highly important works of literature, while remaining simply the deranged ramblings of a crazy person.
When reading one of his books once, someone asked me "Hey, what's it about?" I was stumped. What I couldn't explain was how they manage to be about everything - the human condition, life, existence - but at the same time about absolutely nothing at all.

Vonnegut has a cameo in the Rodney Dangerfield film "Back to School". The story is: this kid's rich father (Dangerfield) is trying to make life easy for his kid at college. He pays NASA to do his astronomy homework, and has 10 tiny student rooms converted into one giant luxury apartment. When the kid has to do a book report on a Kurt Vonnegut book, the dad pays Kurt Vonnegut himself to write it - which he does, and turns up personally to deliver it. The punchline of the cameo comes later in the movie, when everyone finds out that the kid isn't doing his own work: a teacher is berating the kid for lying. Brandishing the Vonnegut book report, to which he has given an 'F', he delivers the kicker: "And whoever wrote this obviously knows nothing about Vonnegut!" Vonnegut, self-deprecating to the end, probably thought that was just perfect. I can hear him watching the movie, shouting "Well, I don't!", and roaring with laughter. Later, when Dangerfield hears about the report, he calls up Vonnegut to complain. We come in at the end of the phonecall, to hear Dangerfield saying "Fuck me? Hey Vonnegut, fuck you!"

People who think this sort of thing is beneath Vonnegut clearly don't know him that well. He is very anti-elitist, and deliberately writes his books simply and plainly, so as not to exclude anyone from reading them. He is not a fan of literary critics, who have given him a hard time over the years. Just because his books are simple doesn't mean they are stupid - "Spot the Dog" books are also simple and concise, but they're not generally regarded as important works of art.

When I was 12, I discovered two of his books in the otherwise desolate school library. I then became the only student who had ever quoted Vonnegut in an essay. It wasn't very clever - I just peppered a story with "So it goes" a few times. Later I made my own version up. It was "That's how life goes". Let it never be said that I lack imagination.

Kilgore Trout, Vonnegut's alter ego, and a writer of some repute, often makes appearances in his books. Once said that "being alive is a crock of shit". He writes stories that usually appear in magazines with photographs of "wide open beavers". For a while now, these stories have only appeared in Vonnegut's books, in rough form. They are still better than my stories, though. It saddens me that a non-existent person is a better writer than I am. Still, that's the way life is. See what I mean?

It is very important that you read all of Vonnegut's books as soon as possible. I cannot tell you why, only that you must. You'll thank me for it one day.

This writeup is lovingly written in Vonnegut's style. I felt it needed to be, to enable me to talk about him properly. Whether I am successful or not isn't important - I liked it. Vonnegut once said "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." If I pretend to be someone who writes like Vonnegut, maybe one day I will be that person.

To the character of Kurt Vonnegut:

At about the time of the release of Timequake, my wife and I attended a talk Kurt Vonnegut gave in Palo Alto. This being Palo Alto, which is where Stanford is located, I assumed this would be a well attended event in a large venue. It turned out to be a somewhat poorly attended event in a high school gym. One of the things I remember from the talk was the part where he compared the internet to a bunch of hobbyists with ham radios all going "Blah blah blah blah...".

Following the talk was a question and answer session. One question I remember in particular was given by a very full of himself high school student who obviously thought that since he had read a couple of books that intellectually, he was the shit. The interchange went something like this:

Arrogant Kid: Mr. Vonnegut, {rambling, long word containing intro to his question. Not included for brevity and because I don't remember any of it}. What is your opinion of the average person?

Kurt Vonnegut: Do you consider yourself to be above average?

AK: Well, yes.

KV: Well, you're not.

Crowd: {Much laughter at the expense of AK.}

AK: {Sheepishly sits down.}

After the event was over, my wife and I caught up with KV in the parking lot. As seemed completely appropriate, he was wearing an old sport jacket that had holes worn through the elbows. My wife asked if he would mind signing my old paperback copy of Welcome to the Monkey House for a fellow Hoosier. This is the only Vonnegut book I have every purchased, all of the other ones I've read coming from the library. His response was this: "I've been signing books all day, and if I sign that for you, I'll have to sign stuff for everyone else."

So, I have a book that Kurt Vonnegut personally refused to sign, which I think seems very fitting.

Written for an English class. Enjoy ...

Born on November 11th, 1922 to a well-to-do family in Indianapolis, Indiana, Kurt Vonnegut Junior was born to an architect struggling to support a family faced with hard times along with the rest of the nation during the Great Depression. Kurt's first writing experience was as editor and columnist for his high school newspaper. After graduating high school in 1940, he studied biology and chemistry at Cornell University from 1940 to 1942. However, science proved not to be Vonnegut's strong point, and he left before his poor grades could force him out.

Kurt enlisted in the army in 1943 and was promptly sent to study engineering at Carnegie Technical Institute and later the University of Tennessee. His mother committed suicide in May of 1944, and later that year he was transferred to the war in Europe and the Germans captured him in the Battle of the Bulge. Vonnegut was held with other POWs in Dresden, an ancient, beautiful city with no real military significance or industrial production. Despite this, the RAF firebombed it on February 13th of 1945, killing 135,000 civilians. (Correction: Sakke informs me that the firebombing of Dresden was improperly documented and, as near as anyone can tell, the death toll was really somewhere between 35,000 and 135,000 civilians.) Vonnegut and the other prisoners were in a meat locker under the slaughterhouse the Germans had converted into barracks for their captured enemies, and as such they survived. His experience under friendly bombs lent him a poignant view into human stupidity and provided the basis for his most critically acclaimed novel, Slaughterhouse-Five.

In May he was repatriated and married childhood friend Jane Marie Cox later that year. He enrolled at Chicago University and received rejection after rejection for his MA thesis on anthropology over the next year while working as a reporter for the Chicago City News Bureau. He left the University without a degree and moved to Schenectady, New York, in 1947 to work as a publicist for General Electric. At the time his brother Bernard was also working for the company as a scientist. His time at GE gave him the insight into corporate culture needed to write Player Piano. During his time at GE he was blessed with a son named Mark and later a daughter, Edith. He left GE in 1951 and moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts to become exclusively a freelance writer, although he attempted a few other jobs to boost family income. His second daughter, Nanette, was born three years later.

Vonnegut went on to continue writing, picking up three of his sister's children along the way when their father died in a train crash and their mother died of cancer within a day of his death. He also picked up his MA in anthropology "around 1973 or so," as he puts it, for writing Cat's Cradle, thanks to a rule that the University of Chicago has about a high-quality written work being substituted for a dissertation. In 1976 he published Slapstick, a book which was not accepted by the literary community but was important to Vonnegut because he published that book under the name "Kurt Vonnegut" - not "Kurt Vonnegut, Jr." This move was indicative of his feelings towards his father; apraetor tipped me off as to this move and informs me that true to his ironic and cynical style he removed the "Jr" because he felt he had become just like his dad. Almost losing his life to a suicide attempt in 1983 using pills and alcohol made him decide to continue stumbling along with the rest of humanity; he points to his failure as the primary and possibly sole reason for doing so. He has completed and published a total of fourteen novels so far, claiming Timequake from 1997 as his last, as well as three collections and "uncollections" of short stories in addition to numerous essays, articles and other writings. He has been writing for more than fifty straight years and has publicly given up the novel-writing game. His experiences with war, with people, and with death have lent him a nigh-bottomless ocean of irony and bitterly irreverent social commentary from which to draw books, essays and stories. Like his compatriots throughout written history all the way back to the first one to write "Thag was here" in berry paint drawings on a cave wall, Kurt Vonnegut has proven that, like people, a healthy society needs to be able to laugh at itself -- and has provided a way for them to do so.

Work Cited
Saxon, Wolfgang. "Bernard Vonnegut, 82, physicist who coaxed rain from the sky," NY Times, 27 April 1997.


Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd Ed. Vol. 16., p25-26. Ed. Byers, Paula K. 1998; Detroit, MI.


Science Fiction Writers, "Kurt Vonnegut." Ed. E.F. Bleiler. Charles Scribner's Sons; 1982.



http://www.forbes.com/asap/1999/0531/086_print.html. Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. "Think Bank." "Forbes," May 1999.

http://www.wdog.com/rider/writings/KVJ_soitgoes.htm. Roder, Shawn. "Kurt Vonnegut Jr.: So it goes." 1999.
Many thanks and much love to apraetor and sakke for contributing to this writeup!
When I heard the news
I ran
so hard I stumbled
and puked my guts
spilling onto the slick streets
worms pushed their way at me
prehensile bodies pressing against me
wet flesh of detached tentacles
nine minutes, eight. no time.
I ran,
exploded into the door
six, five
while one was left open a crack
I pushed through like a worm
shelves a mess, stairs navigated
a slip of paper with a number at hand
spines and letters blurring by
I stop at the desk
"Kurt Vonnegut is dead"
I told him. A grimace.
"Cat's Cradle. it's the best one."
I nodded, took the leather-bound leaves
and ran
two, one

so it goes

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