The New York Times has a rather nice piece about the opening of the new Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in downtown Indianapolis. Although Vonnegut lived in New York for the latter part of his life, his roots were in the midwest, and the new museum honors this. Visitors can see Vonnegut’s old typewriter, paintings and other lesser ephemera.
Vonnegut was a satirist with a science fiction sensibility; a cross-over writer whose blackly comic tales of devolving humans, apocalyptic ice and men who become “unstuck” in time appealed to both academia and average readers alike. Although most best know him for his classic Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut left behind an enormous body of work when he died in 2007 at the age of 84.
Vonnegut was one of my favorite authors growing up, and I was fortunate enough to have seen him speak at my alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi. He was sly, quick on his feet and most definitely his own man. At the time, the university required all speakers to participate in a question and answer session following their lecture, but Vonnegut wouldn’t have any of it. Instead, he wrapped up his lecture with a bit of impromptu song (I can’t for the life of me remember what it was, sadly), placed his microphone back on the stand, and walked off stage. The audience sat silently in the dark for a long and awkward moment before bursting into applause.
If you’ve never experienced Vonnegut, then I strongly suggest you take a little time to explore his work. This world is truly a sadder place without him.