The Many Vonneguts – An Interview with Zachary Perdieu

In 2016, Zachary Perdieu, co-Vice President of the Kurt Vonnegut Society, delivered a paper at the American Literature Association’s annual conference titled “’That was I. That was me.’ The Many Vonneguts and Their Relationship with Fiction.” In the following interview, Perdieu shares his thoughts on “the many Vonneguts” and how Vonnegut’s fiction may have predicted his own death.

Q: Vonnegut is well-known for inserting himself into his fiction, perhaps most prominently in Breakfast of Champions. In your research you found evidence of this approach in a much earlier work, Cat’s Cradle. What did you find?

A: In Jerome Klinkowitz’s book Vonnegut In Fact (1998), Klinkowitz explains that Vonnegut attempted to insert his surname, at the very least, into the narrative of Cat’s Cradle (1963). Funnily enough, Vonnegut had already blatantly placed a “Kurt Vonnegut” character in Mother Night that came out two years before Cat’s Cradle, but this character was presented as the editor of Howard W. Campbell Jr.’s memoir manuscript. This manuscript was fictional, of course, so the “editor” character Vonnegut presented was also a fictional projection of the author, himself. Apparently, this particular presentation of a Vonnegut-character was accepted by editors, but the idea of the author’s last name entering Cat’s Cradle two years later was viewed as literary malpractice, as Klinkowitz goes on to write, “Editors talked Vonnegut out of the idea as being too radical” when Vonnegut made this attempt in Cat’s Cradle because it would be seen as “violating the aesthetic distance that critics assume must exist between reality and the fictive” (111).

So Vonnegut was “present” as an editor-character in Mother Night in 1961, and then showed up again in 1969 in Chapter 1 of Slaughterhouse-Five and a few other places in the book. As you mentioned, Vonnegut as an author/character shows up most prominently in Breakfast of Champions in 1973, where the character is interacting and manipulating with the fictional universe around him. Simply put, in the book immediately preceding Cat’s Cradle and the two that followed in publication order, representations of Vonnegut as a character are all over the place. Despite this, his editors had censored this stylistic inclination out of Cat’s Cradle.

I was at Indiana University’s Lilly Library doing research in the Vonnegut archive for my master’s thesis, and on my final day I decided to look for evidence of Klinkowitz’s claim that Vonnegut had attempted to place himself in the work in an early draft of Cat’s Cradle that was present in the archive.

Read the entire interview here.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of November 5, 2017

This week’s question will delve into Bokononism as we feature Vonnegut vocabulary.

Q:   What is a granfalloon?

a) harmless lies

b) a uniform worn by a Bokononist minister

c) a proud and meaningless association of human beings

d) a Bokononist marriage ceremony

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was #1 – Colliers was the first magazine to publish Vonnegut’s fiction.  “Report on the Barnhouse Effect” appeared in the magazine in 1950.

For more on the recently published Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories, check out The New York Times review by Jess Walter.

“How Kurt Vonnegut Found His Voice”

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of October 29, 2017

After a two-week hiatus, we’re back with more trivia.  This week’s question focuses on Vonnegut’s short fiction–all of which is now available in Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories, published last month by Seven Stories Press.

Q: “Report on the Barnhouse Effect” was Vonnegut’s first published story.  In which magazine did it appear?

  1. Colliers
  2. Saturday Evening Post
  3. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
  4. Esquire

Check in next week for the correct answer.  The answer to our last question was #2 – The Foster Portfolio.

For more on Vonnegut and his influence, see our recent essay by Zachary Perdieu, “What I Pretended to Be.”

“What I Pretended to Be” by Zachary Perdieu

What I Pretended to Be – by Zachary Perdieu

Zachary Perdieu is co-Vice President of the Kurt Vonnegut essay.  In the following essay, he shares how Vonnegut’s work helped shape his future academic career.  

What I Pretended to Be

Ask any friend of mine to provide a few details about me, and my affinity for Kurt Vonnegut would never slip past the third listed item. Despite this, I was late to the clambake, so to speak, relative to many other Vonnegut fans and scholars. A common story among Vonnegut fans involves youthfully stumbling upon one of the author’s novels on a parent’s or older sibling’s bookshelf, or perhaps being assigned “Harrison Bergeron” in high school, and, from that young age, the fan carried Vonnegut into adulthood. My story isn’t so different, I suppose, but I would venture to paint it as a bit more dramatic.

Continue reading:

What I Pretended to Be by Zachary Perdieu

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of October 8, 2017

For this week’s question, we stick with short fiction.  Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories is now available at local bookstores.

Q: In which early Vonnegut story does a rich man pretend to be poor so he can pursue his passion for playing roadhouse piano under the guise of needing the money?

  1. Who Am I This Time?
  2. The Foster Portfolio
  3. Miss Temptation
  4. Ambitious Sophomore

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was #4.  “Welcome to the Monkey House” was first published in Playboy.

For more, check out the new Vonnegut Video of the Month–a 2006 interview in which Kurt discusses censorship in America.

Vonnegut Video of the Month – Kurt Vonnegut on Censorship

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of October 1, 2017

Earlier this week Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died.  Which Kurt Vonnegut story was first published in Playboy?

  1. Harrison Bergeron
  2. The Big Space Fuck
  3. Miss Temptation
  4. Welcome to the Monkey House

Check back next week for the correct response.   The answer to last week’s question was #3.  The subtitle of Slapstick is Lonesome No More!

Congratulations to David Beveridge, the winner of our recent contest.  David won a copy of Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories.

“New” Vonnegut story available at The Nation

While we certainly encourage everyone to purchase a copy of Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories, readers can find one of the newly discovered stories online at The Nation:

“Requiem for Zeitgeist”

https://www.thenation.com/article/requiem-for-zeitgeist/

Today is the final day to enter to win a copy of Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories.  Sign up to follow The Daily Vonnegut or send an email to thedailyvonnegut@gmail.com.  One entrant, picked at random, will win a copy of the book.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of September 24, 2017

This week’s question is from Slapstick, first published in 1976.

What is the subtitle found on the title page of the novel Slapstick?

  1. The Children’s Crusade
  2. So it Goes
  3. Lonesome No More!
  4. Dammit! You’ve Got to Be Kind!

For the correct answer, visit the following Kickstarter page to help fund a new mental health initiative from the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library.  As most Vonnnegut fans know, Kurt suffered from depression, and his mother committed suicide.  Characters experiencing the ravages of mental illness appear frequently in his fiction.  Those able to make a donation to support this worthy program can do so at the link below, which includes a short video about the program:

 

The answer to last week’s question was #3–readers of Cat’s Cradle know that foma are harmless lies.

Our contest to win a copy of Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories remains open until October First.    Sign up to follow The Daily Vonnegut or send us an email at thedailyvonnegut@gmail.com to be entered to win.

 

“New” Vonnegut story available in The Atlantic

The Atlantic Monthly has published a newly discovered Vonnegut story, “The Drone King,” in this month’s edition.   You can read the story at the following link:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/10/kurt-vonnegut-the-drone-king/537870/ 

The story was discovered by writer Dan Wakefield and Vonnegut scholar Jerome Klinkowitz as they were reading through Vonnegut’s papers at the Lilly Library at Indiana University while working on Vonnegut’s Complete Stories, soon to be published by Seven Stories Press.  According to Klinkowitz, “The Drone King” was written in the early 1950’s, at the beginning of Vonnegut’s career.

To celebrate the publication of Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories, The Daily Vonnegut is giving away a free copy of the book.  Sign up to follow The Daily Vonnegut between September 20 and October 1 and you’ll be entered to win.  We’ll pick one person at random to receive the free copy of Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories.  You can also enter by sending an email to thedailyvonnegut@gmail.com.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of September 17, 2017

This week’s question is from Cat’s Cradle, one of Vonnegut’s best, first published in 1963.

What are foma?

  1. Plant life found only on Trafalmadore
  2. Pain pills
  3. Harmless lies
  4. Ancient wisdoms

Check back next week for the correct response.  The answer to last week’s question was #1 –  Harry LaSabre’s secret was that he liked to wear women’s clothing.

Don’t forget: On September 26th Seven Stories Press will release Vonnegut’s Complete Stories, featuring several previously unpublished works.   We’ll have more on the Complete Stories later this week.

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of September 10, 2017

This week’s question is from Breakfast of Champions:

Q: Harry LeSabre, the sales manager at Dwayne Hoover’s Exit Eleven Pontiac Village, has a secret.  What is it?

  1. He likes to wear women’s clothing
  2. He was a German spy during World War II
  3. He’s a robot
  4. He’s having an affair with Dwayne’s wife

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was Eugene Debs.  The narrator of Hocus Pocus is Eugene Debs Hartke, named after the famed Indianapolis labor leader and Socialist Party presidential candidate, Eugene Victor Debs.   Vonnegut often referred to this famous Debs quote:

“While there is a lower class, I am in it.  While there is a criminal element, I am of it.  While there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

 

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of September 3, 2017

In recognition of Labor Day, this week’s question comes from Hocus Pocus, Vonnegut’s penultimate novel, published in 1990.

The protagonist and narrator of Hocus Pocus is named after which prominent labor organizer:

  1. Samuel Gompers
  2. Eugene Debs
  3. Big Bill Haywood
  4. Daniel McCone

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was Laurel and Hardy.

Enjoy your Labor Day holiday.

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of August 27, 2017

For this week’s question, we visit Slapstick, first published in 1976.

The novel Slapstick is dedicated to which famous comedy team?

  1. Laurel and Hardy
  2. Abbot and Costello
  3. Bob and Ray
  4. Martin and Lewis

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was #2 – The Ghost Shirt Society.  This was the name taken by the rebellious group hoping to overthrow “the machines.”

For more on the work of Kurt Vonnegut, check out this essay by Josh Privett.

Kurt Vonnegut, The Lapsed Secularist

 

 

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of August 20, 2017

This week’s question is from Vonnegut’s debut novel, Player Piano:

What is the name of the group of workers and engineers who strike out against the machines in order to restore a sense of worth to people’s lives?

  1. The Reeks and Wrecks
  2. The Ghost Shirt Society
  3. The Proteus Rebellion
  4. The Ghost Dance Uprising

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to our last question is Midland City.  Dwayne Hoover owned a Pontiac dealership in this fictional Midwestern town, a frequent setting in Vonnegut’s work.

For more on the life and work of Kurt Vonnegut, see our interview with Ginger Strand, author of The Brothers Vonnegut.

Interview with Ginger Strand – The Brothers Vonnegut

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of August 6, 2017

Once again, our question comes from Breakfast of Champions:

In which Midwest city does Dwayne Hoover own a Pontiac dealership?

  1. Chicago
  2. Detroit
  3. Cleveland
  4. Midland City

The answer to last week’s question: Phoebe Hurty, to whom Breakfast of Champions was dedicated, was a copywriter for the William H. Block company who hired the young Kurt to write ad copy for teenage clothing.   According to Kurt, she taught him “to be impolite in conversation not only about sexual matters, but about American history and famous heroes, about the distribution of wealth, about school, about everything.”

In case you missed it, be sure to check out our recent interview with Lawrence R. Broer.

Vonnegut and Hemingway – Writers at War

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of July 23, 2017

This week’s question is from Vonnegut’s 1973 novel, Breakfast of Champions.

Breakfast of Champions is dedicated to Phoebe Hurty.  What role did she play in Vonnegut’s life?

The answer to last week’s question is The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest HemingwayFor more on the Vonnegut-Hemingway connection, check out our interview with Professor Lawrence R. Broer.

Vonnegut and Hemingway – Writers at War

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of July 16, 2017

For this week’s question, we visit Vonnegut’s 1997 novel, Timequake.

Name the work of fiction by Ernest Hemingway featured in the Prologue of Timequake.

The answer to last week’s question is Kazak.  Kazak is the name of Winston Niles Rumfoord’s dog in The Sirens of Titan.  Vonnegut uses the same name for dog characters in Breakfast of Champions and Galapagos.

For more on the Vonnegut-Hemingway connection, be sure to read our recent interview with Professor Lawrence R. Broer.

Vonnegut and Hemingway – Writers at War

Vonnegut and Hemingway: An Interview with Lawrence R. Broer

Vonnegut & Hemingway: Writers at War – An Interview with Lawrence R. Broer  

While a surface reading of each man’s fiction might find little connection between Kurt Vonnegut and Ernest Hemingway beyond the trauma of war, as Lawrence R. Broer shows in Vonnegut & Hemingway: Writers at War (The University of South Carolina Press, 2011) the relationship between the two writers is deep and complex. Broer’s work “maps the striking intersections of biography and artistry” between Vonnegut and Hemingway, exploring the ways in which they blend life and art.

A long-time Vonnegut scholar, Broer’s earlier book, Sanity Plea: Schizophrenia in the Novels of Kurt Vonnegut, offered a broad psychoanalytic study of the author’s work, and was called by the Journal of Popular Culture “…among the very best in Vonnegut studies.”

Broer shared his thoughts with The Daily Vonnegut.

Q: In Vonnegut & Hemingway: Writers at War, you describe Hemingway as the “secret sharer” of Vonnegut’s literary imagination. How so?

A: I, of course, allude to Joseph Conrad’s wonderful novella, “The Secret Sharer,” about two sea Captains who represent opposing sides of the same individual, mankind’s impulse to cruelty and violence versus a capacity for self-awareness, control, and cooperation. Like Conrad, like Einstein and Freud, Vonnegut understood that unless human beings learn to understand and control their destructive tendencies, civilization is doomed. Vonnegut viewed Hemingway’s love of blood sports, killing big animals for pleasure, in this context. But just as in Conrad’s story where the protagonist’s bestial self is unconscious, I suspect Vonnegut was never fully aware of the deeper, more personal reason for his compulsive portrayal of Hemingway as his “bête noir,” a fatalistic self for whom suicide was forecast from an early age, and to which Vonnegut repeatedly refers in and out of his fiction, e.g., “I had recently turned seventy-three. My mother made it to seventy-two. Hemingway almost made it to sixty-two” (Timequake). I think Vonnegut believed that resisting the pull of his defeatist self was necessary not only to fulfilling his role as canary-bird-in-the-coal mine, but to life itself. As I wrote in Vonnegut and Hemingway: Writers at War, Hemingway joins Billy Pilgrim, Kilgore Trout, and Kurt Vonnegut Sr. as the author’s chief scapegoats, carrying his burden of trauma and despair.

Read the complete interview here:

Vonnegut and Hemingway – An Interview with Lawrence R. Broer

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of July 2, 2017

For this week’s question, we enter the world of Vonnegut’s short fiction:

What was the name of the Lincoln High School band director who appears in several early stories, including “The Kid Nobody Could Handle,” reprinted in the Welcome to the Monkey House collection?  

The answer to last week’s question is “Report on the Barnhouse Effect,” which was Vonnegut’s first published story.  Collier’s paid $750 for the story.  For Vonnegut, this was the equivalent of two months’ salary at GE.

In September, Seven Stories Press will publish Vonnegut’s Complete Stories, edited by Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield, with a Foreword by Dave Eggers.  Organized thematically, the book features 97 stories and over 1,000 pages.

https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Stories-Kurt-Vonnegut/dp/1609808088/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1499008926&sr=8-1&keywords=Kurt+Vonnegut+complete+stories

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of June 25, 2017

This week’s question is about Kurt’s early career as a writer of short fiction for popular magazines like Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s, aka “the slicks.”

Which story, featured in the Welcome to the Monkey House collection, was Vonnegut’s first published work of fiction?

The answer to last week’s question was Adolf Hitler.  Otto Waltz befriended the future dictator during his days as a student painter in Europe.

For more Vonnegut, check out this interview with Salon from October, 1990.

http://www.salon.com/1999/10/08/vonnegut_interview/

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of June 18, 2017

For this Father’s Day edition of Vonnegut Trivia, we visit Deadeye Dick, and explore the tragic ineptitude of Rudy’s father, the would-be painter Otto Waltz.

Which historical figure did Otto Waltz befriend during his time in Vienna?

The correct response to last week’s question is The Sermon on the Mount.

Be sure to check out Marc Leeds’s essay, What Would Kurt Vonnegut think of Donald Trump?

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of June 11, 2017

Once again, we visit Jailbird for this week’s question:

Which Biblical passage does Walter F. Starbuck reference in response to Richard Nixon’s question about why Starbuck was so ungrateful to the capitalist system?

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was The RAMJAC Corporation.

This month’s Vonnegut Video features an 18-minute interview from 1978 on the Canadian television series 90 Minutes Live.

Vonnegut Video of the Month

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of June 4, 2017

For this week’s trivia, we visit Vonnegut’s 1979 novel Jailbird.

What is the name of the fictional multinational corporation that plays a key role in the events of the novel?

The correct response to last week’s question is C.  Vonnegut served as a scout for the 423rd Regiment.

Be sure to check out the interview from earlier this week featuring writer Benjamin Reed on “Teaching ‘Harrison Bergeron’.”

Teaching Harrison Bergeron – An Interview with Benjamin Reed

Teaching “Harrison Bergeron” – An Interview with Benjamin Reed

Originally published in 1961 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, “Harrison Bergeron” is Kurt Vonnegut’s most well-known story.   In The Short Fiction of Kurt Vonnegut, Peter J. Reed describes the story as “vintage Vonnegut …extremely funny while at the same time touching on several serious social issues.” While often read as a satire on forced equality, the story is complex enough to merit interpretations across the political spectrum. Anyone who has not yet read the story can find it in Vonnegut’s collection, Welcome to the Monkey House. It is also available online.

A staple of high school and college anthologies, “Harrison Bergeron” is for many students their “first” Vonnegut. In his 2015 essay “Technologies of Amnesia: Teaching ‘Harrison Bergeron’ to the Millennial Generation” (published in Teaching American Literature: A Journal of Theory and Practice), Benjamin Reed, a writer and lecturer at Texas State University, examines the different interpretations of the story and his experiences teaching it to undergraduates.

Reed shared his thoughts with The Daily Vonnegut.

Q: In your essay you write that “Harrison Bergeron” always resonates with students. Why is that?

A: I think partly it’s their age. Most of my students are underclassmen, between 18 and 20. They’ve just made this tremendous, terrifying leap from a small, knowable world into a cosmos of uncertainty. Even if they don’t know it, they have been developing a personalized and reliable moral and philosophical framework from which they get a kind of pleasure by testing it against challenging stories. It’s one of the many reasons literature—especially fiction—needs to be taught heavily in high school and college. Also, because my young students still carry a residue of their teenage years, they’re very keen to notice unfairness, and the failings of well-intended authority figures, because they still bear fresh marks from the trauma of surviving late childhood in the households of their terribly human parents.

There is also the disquieting terror of seeing a lost child erased from his parents’ memory, which has to click, if only on a preconscious level, with young people who have recently left home for the first time.

For the complete interview, follow the link below:

Teaching “Harrison Bergeron” – An Interview with Benjamin Reed

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of May 28, 2017

To commemorate Memorial Day, this week’s question is about Kurt’s military service during World War II.

What was Vonnegut’s “job” as a soldier in the 423rd Regiment, Second Division?

a) Machine Gunner     b) Chaplain’s Assistant   c) Scout      d) Medic

Check back next week for the correct response.  The answer to last week’s question:

The name of the doomed cruise ship in Galapagos was the Bahia de Darwin.

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of May 14, 2017

This week’s question is in honor of Mother’s Day:

What was Vonnegut’s mother Edith’s maiden name?

The answer to last week’s question: The Parker Brother’s game that predicts the future in the novel Hocus Pocus is named GRIOT.

For more, be sure to check out this interview with noted Vonnegut scholar Jerome Klinkowitz.  Click below to read the full interview:

Interview with Jerome Klinkowitz

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of April 23, 2017

For this week’s question, we visit Vonnegut’s 1987 novel Bluebeard.

In the novel, the character Circe Berman writes Young Adult fiction under what pen name?

The answer to last week’s question: The Statler Brothers song “Class of ’57” is considered by Kurt to be a proper National Anthem for his generation.

For more on Vonnegut’s life and work, check out the essay “Kurt Vonnegut-The Lapsed Secularist” by Josh Privett.  Click here for the full essay:

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of April 16, 2017

This week’s Easter Sunday edition of Vonnegut Trivia comes from Palm Sunday, Vonnegut’s 1981 “autobiographical collage.”

What is the name of the country song by The Statler Brothers that Kurt would like to see “become our national anthem for a little while?”   In Palm Sunday Vonnegut includes the lyrics to the song, and writes that it “could be an anthem for my generation.”

The answer to last week’s question: Dwayne Hoover owned a Pontiac dealership in Midland City.

Interested in Vonnegut “fan fiction?”  Check out this interview with Jim O’loughlin on “The World Of Kurt Vonnegut.”

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of April 9, 2017

This week’s question continues with our theme of occupations.

In Breakfast of Champions, what is Dwayne Hoover’s occupation?

Check back next week for the correct response.  The answer to last week’s question: Billy Pilgrim was an optometrist by trade.

Be sure to check out our interview with Gregory Sumner, author of Unstuck in Time: A Journey Through Kurt Vonnegut’s Life and Novels.  In the interview, Sumner discusses the writing of Vonnegut’s short story, “Welcome to the Monkey House.”  Click here to read the complete interview.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of April 2, 2017

For this week’s question, we visit Vonnegut’s masterpiece, Slaughterhouse-Five:

What is Billy Pilgrim’s profession?

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question: Rudy Waltz, the protagonist of Deadeye Dick, was a registered pharmacist.

Be sure to read the recent interview with Ginger Strand, author of The Brothers Vonnegut.   For the complete interview, click here.

The Brothers Vonnegut – An Interview with Ginger Strand

The Brothers Vonnegut, by Ginger Strand, is a fascinating study of Kurt Vonnegut’s career in public relations for General Electric (GE) in the late 1940’s. Yet equally important is the story of Bernard Vonnegut, Kurt’s older brother, an accomplished scientist specializing in weather phenomenon. Author Ginger Strand shared her thoughts with The Daily Vonnegut.   

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

A: Surprisingly, while I liked what I had read, I wasn’t a lifelong Kurt Vonnegut fan. I came to this story via Bernie. I was reading about New York City’s 1950 drought, in which the city cloud seeded the Catskill Mountains in an attempt to fill their reservoirs. That story was fascinating enough, but when I learned that the person who invented the method New York City used was Bernard Vonnegut, brother to Kurt, I got interested. I remembered how Kurt had been caught in the firebombing of Dresden during World War II, and had only survived because he was in a slaughterhouse basement. This lyrical pair of images—one brother hiding underground to avoid fire and death from the sky, the other brother in the air trying to coax water and life from the sky—stuck with me.

For the complete interview, click here.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of March 26, 2017

For this week’s question, we visit Vonnegut’s 1982 novel Deadeye Dick.

What is the profession of  the novel’s main character, Rudy Waltz?

Check back next week for the answer.   The correct response to last week’s question is Lionel Boyd Johnson, the real name of the prophet Bokonon (Cat’s Cradle.)

For anyone who missed our interview with Susan Farrell on American Fascism and Mother Night, you can read the full interview here.

Later this week we’ll feature an interview with author Ginger Strand about her book, The Brothers Vonnegut, about Kurt and Bernard during their years working for General Electric.

American Fascism and Mother Night – An Interview with Professor Susan Farrell

Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night, originally published as a paperback original in 1961, continues to resonate with its times. Professor Susan Farrell, in an essay presented at the American Literature Association Conference in 2016, explored the relationship between the assorted fascists connected to Howard W. Campbell Jr. and several figures from American history.

Professor Farrell shared her thoughts with The Daily Vonnegut.

Q: In “American Fascism and Mother Night,” you draw connections between the characters in the novel and several historical figures from the 1930’s and 1940’s. With the exception of Father Coughlin, these relatively obscure American fascists have faded from historical view. Tell us about your research and how you came to write the essay.

A: I first became interested in writing the essay because I happened to read something about Sufi Abdul Hamid, a religious mystic and political activist who lived in Harlem during the 1930s, and who served as the historical model for Robert Sterling Wilson in the novel. Both men were known as the “Black Fuhrer of Harlem.” I was immediately intrigued. Vonnegut’s character seemed so cartoonish and outlandish that it was hard to believe he had an actual historical counterpart.

To read the complete interview, visit The Daily Vonnegut at the following link:

American Fascism and Mother Night – An Interview with Susan Farrell

 

Vonnegut Trivia – week of March 19, 2017

For this week’s trivia question, we visit Vonnegut’s 1963 classic, Cat’s Cradle.

What is the real name of the prophet Bokonon?

Check back next week for the answer.  The answer to last week’s question is the Free American Corps, Howard W. Campbell’s program to use American POWs to fight the Soviets on the Russian front.

Later this week we’ll be featuring an interview with Professor Susan Farrell on American Fascism and Mother Night.

Vonnegut on Bob Dylan

According to the website Page Six, Kurt Vonnegut, in an interview with Hustler magazine, once called Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan the “worst poet alive.”   The quote is part of a 1991 interview that will be reprinted in the December issue of Hustler.  This is the first time I’ve seen this interview referenced.

The Page Six story can be read at the following link:

Vonnegut Calls Dylan Worst Poet Alive

 

2011 Interview with Donald Farber

Check out this 2011 interview with Vonnegut’s long-time agent, business manager, and friend Donald Farber.

Donald Farber on the Legacy of Kurt Vonnegut

Interestingly, Farber is asked about Vonnegut’s final, unfinished novel, If God Were Alive Today.  On the question of whether or not it would ever see the light of day, Farber responds, “…of course I’ve thought about it.  But it’s unfinished, and there’s no point in publishing an unfinished work. Kurt had said everything he had to say.”  Farber later states, “We will not publish Kurt’s unfinished work.”

Despite Farber’s comments, If God Were Alive Today was eventually published in 2012, the year after the interview, as part of the book We Are What We Pretend to Be.

 

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of November 19, 2017

This week’s question is from the novel Hocus Pocus, published in 1990.

What did Jack Patton build as his entry for a high school science fair?

a) an atomic bomb

b) an electric chair for rats

c) a solar-powered lawn mower

d) an elephant scale

Check back next week for the correct response.  The answer to last week’s question was D.  Vonnegut’s older sister was named Alice.

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of November 12, 2017

A belated “Happy Birthday” to Kurt Vonnegut, who was born on November 11, 1922.

This week’s question delves into the Vonnegut family tree.

Q: Kurt Vonnegut had two older siblings, his brother Bernard, and an older sister.  What was Vonnegut’s sister’s name?

A) Edith

B) Jane

C) Jill

D) Alice

Check back next week for the  answer. The correct response to last week’s question was (C).  A granfalloon is a proud and meaningless association of human beings.

If you missed this week’s interview with Zachary Perdieu, you can read the full interview here: The Many Vonneguts- An Interview with Zachary Perdieu.