Wheelhouse Theater Company presents Happy Birthday, Wanda June – An Interview with Jeffrey Wise and Matt Harrington

In December 1970, Kurt Vonnegut wrote to his friend, fellow novelist Jose Donoso, “…The adventure of having a play produced was harrowing…But I had to begin my theatrical career with something—and now I have in fact begun. I’ve written six novels. Now I want to write six plays.” (Kurt Vonnegut Letters, Delacorte Press, 2012 p. 165.)

Vonnegut’s adventure was the New York debut of Happy Birthday, Wanda June, the only full-length play Vonnegut published in his career. Hard to find in print, and rarely performed, Wanda June is among Vonnegut’s lesser known works, but that may change with the upcoming production by New York’s Wheelhouse Theater Company at The Duke on 42nd Street in Manhattan. Tickets are now available for this limited run beginning October 18th through November 29th.  Purchase tickets here.

Wanda June

Jeffrey Wise and Matt Harrington, Founding Members of the Company, shared their thoughts on the play in a recent interview with The Daily Vonnegut. In the current production Matt plays the role of Dr. Norbert Woodley while Jeff is the play’s Director.

Q: What inspired you to stage “Happy Birthday, Wanda June?” It’s not among Vonnegut’s most well-known works?

Matt: Yeah, it’s definitely not among his known works, and the most common response I get when I talk about it with people is “Wait, Vonnegut wrote a play?” I had seen a production that some friends of mine from college did about twelve years ago now, and it stuck with me. We were trying to put out heads together and think about our next production, and it kind of floated back into my mind. I found a copy of it, and I remembered that it was compelling; I remembered that it was funny and provocative, but then when I started reading it I thought, “Oh shit, this is so much more relevant and topical and compelling for a contemporary audience than I even remembered it being.

Read the full interview:

Jeffrey Wise and Matt Harrington – Wheelhouse Theater Company presents Happy Birthday, Wanda June.

Cat’s Cradle, Common Decency, and The Return of Wanda June

Yes, The Daily Vonnegut became unstuck in time for a bit, but is back this week with another question.

Q: In Cat’s Cradle, what is the name of the book that the narrator is writing about what famous people were doing the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima?

a) Ka-Boom!

b) Canary in a Coal Mine

c) The Day The World Ended

d) A Pillar of Salt

Check back next week for the answer, or better yet, pick up Cat’s Cradle and find the answer on page 1.

As part of its Lonesome No More initiative exploring the issue of mental health, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library published a blog post featuring comments by Kurt’s son, Dr. Mark Vonnegut, who addresses the topic of his famous father’s suicide attempt.  Follow the link for the full post:

Common Decency in Friendships with Mark Vonnegut and Madeline Zielinski

The Wheelhouse Theater Company is presenting a revival of Vonnegut’s Happy Birthday, Wanda June from October 18 through November 29 at The Duke on 42nd Street in New York.  Tickets are now on sale.  For more, visit the Wheelhouse Theater website:

Happy Birthday, Wanda June

For more, here’s a 1998 appearance by Vonnegut and writer Lee Stringer, who collaborated on 1999’s Like Shaking Hands with God.

Back To School

It’s back to school time, and what better way to begin the new school year than with this classic Vonnegut cameo from Back to School.

The answer to our last trivia question was A – Cheers, which Vonnegut referred to as television’s one comic masterpiece.

The Daily Vonnegut returns next week with more trivia.

Vonnegut trivia, 13 Fascinating Facts, and Vonnegut’s advice to high school students

This week’s trivia question is about Vonnegut and television.

Q: In 1991, while promoting the Showtime series Welcome to the Monkey House,  Kurt Vonnegut praised which popular sitcom, calling it television’s one comic masterpiece?

a) Cheers

b) Seinfeld

c) M*A*S*H

d) The Dick Van Dyke Show

Check back next week for the answer, or you can find it sooner at “Thirteen Fascinating Facts About Kurt Vonnegut.”

Thirteen Fascinating Facts About Kurt Vonnegut   

The correct response to last week’s question was B – In Slaughterhouse-Five, Edgar Derby is reading The Red Badge of Courage.

In the following clip, a teacher reads a letter of advise to high school students written by Kurt toward the end of his life.  His advice: make your soul grow.

Vonnegut trivia, a tribute to Jane, and Kurt’s warning about the future

This week’s question is from Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, Slaughterhouse-Five.

Q: What book does Edgar Derby start reading in the infirmary while watching over Billy Pilgrim?

a) A Farewell to Arms

b) The Red Badge of Courage

c) Johnny Got His Gun

d) The Brothers Karamazov     

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to our previous question was A – Steven Paul directed the film adaptation of Slapstick.   

Kurt often wrote of his first wife Jane with great respect and affection.  In the following piece by Ginger Strand in The New Yorker,  the author explores how Jane helped Kurt develop as a writer.

“How Jane Vonnegut Made Kurt Vonnegut a Writer.”   

For more from Ginger Strand, read her interview with The Daily Vonnegut here:

The Brothers Vonnegut – An Interview with Ginger Strand

Finally, here’s a 1987 appearance in which Kurt wonders what might happen to society when “the excrement hits the air conditioning.”

Vonnegut 2020?

After a brief hiatus, The Daily Vonnegut will return this Sunday with new trivia and some Vonnegut video.  Until then, here’s a quote from Vonnegut friend (and former student), novelist John Irving, from a 1986 interview in The Paris Review.

“I tell you, Kurt Vonnegut would be a better president than any president we’ve had since I’ve been voting.”

Hi Ho!

 

Vonnegut Trivia and The Vonnegut Encyclopedia

Here’s this week’s question:

Q: In the original production of Kurt Vonnegut’s play Happy Birthday, Wanda June, the young actor Steven Paul played the part of Paul Ryan.  What is Steven Paul’s other connection to the work of Kurt Vonnegut?

a) He directed the film adaptation of Slapstick

b) He had a supporting role in the film version of Mother Night

c) He played Harold Ryan in a future production of Wanda June

d) He did the narration for the audio book of Slaughterhouse-Five

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was D – Walter Starbuck met his wife Ruth at a post-WW2 refugee camp.

For serious Vonnegut fans, there is no better resource than Marc Leeds’ The Vonnegut Encyclopedia, a revised edition of which was published by Delacorte Press in 2016.  For more on the Encyclopedia, here’s a recent review from the Irish Journal of American Studies.

The Vonnegut Encyclopedia

You can also read Leeds’ interview with The Daily Vonnegut.

Marc Leeds – The Vonnegut Encyclopedia  

Finally, here’s a clip of a 2018 appearance in which Marc discusses Kurt Vonnegut and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.   

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of July 8, 2018

This week’s question is from Jailbird, first published in 1979.

Q: Where did Walter Starbuck meet Ruth, his first wife?

a) At a Harvard sorority party

b) In Federal Prison

c) At a staff meeting for the Nixon White House

d) At a refugee camp in post-WW2 Europe

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was B – Player Piano is set in Ilium, New York.

For more, here’s a recording of Kurt Vonnegut, from 1969, reading his story “Go Back to Your Precious Wife and Son.”

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of July 1, 2018

For this week’s question, we visit Player Piano, Kurt Vonnegut’s first published novel.

Q:  Which city is the main location for Player Piano?

a) Midland City, Ohio

b) Ilium, New York

c) San Marcos, Florida

d) Rosewater, Indiana

Check back next week for the correct response.  The answer to our last questions was B – Kurt Vonnegut Sr.’s occupation was architect.

For more, here’s a 1989 appearance by Kurt on The Dick Cavett Show.  Vonnegut discusses his recent travels to Mozambique.

Tilting the Axis: Kurt Vonnegut and the Environment – An Interview with Christina Jarvis

Even casual fans of Kurt Vonnegut’s work recognize him as a writer engaged with the issues of his time. Vonnegut’s range of interests was vast: the waste and futility of war, the dangers of excessive automation, the conflict between scientific progress and human welfare, gun violence, inequality, rampant pollution and the degradation of our beautiful planet Earth. While the latter is sometimes overlooked as an influence, environmental concerns are prominent in much of Vonnegut’s work. It’s an area of Vonnegut studies ripe for further study, and Christina Jarvis is up for the challenge. In her upcoming book, Jarvis, a professor at SUNY Fredonia, explores Vonnegut’s work through an environmentalist lens.

Professor Jarvis shared her thoughts with The Daily Vonnegut.

Q: What inspired you to write about the environmental aspects of Vonnegut’s work, or as you describe it, his “lessons in planetary thinking?”  

A: It’s hard to trace the project’s inspiration back to a singular moment, but one key event that stands out was coming across Vonnegut’s comments in a March 1969 New York Times interview about a working draft of Breakfast of Champions in which he had the Great Lakes disappear under Clorox bottles and excrement. This small detail resonated with me because I’d been leading Lake Erie beach cleanups for years, and plastics pollution is such a huge global environmental problem. While everyone knows from the opening lines of Breakfast of Champions that the novel addresses a host of environmental issues, I became intrigued by the idea that Vonnegut had intended to explore other topics. Anyway, the more I dug into Vonnegut’s manuscripts and my secondary research, I kept finding new examples of Vonnegut’s planetary citizenship—examples that went well beyond his late-career incessant warnings about climate change and unchecked fossil fuel consumption. We all know about Vonnegut’s important anti-war speeches and unflagging dedication to pacifist, humanist, and social justice ideas, but many people don’t know that Kurt spoke at the first Earth Day, participated in key anti-nuclear demonstrations, was an avid gardener and birder, etc. I suppose that popular images of him as a chain-smoking, apocalyptic prophet of doom probably don’t conjure up the label “environmentalist.” Key Vonnegut scholars, such as Peter Reed, Loree Rackstraw, Jerome Klinkowitz, Eric Sumner, Marc Leeds, Said Mentak, and Todd Davis, have long noted Kurt’s environmental commitments; however, there’s so much more to the story. That’s where my book project comes in.

Q: While Slaughterhouse-Five and Vonnegut’s experiences as a POW in Dresden take center stage in most appraisals of Vonnegut’s work, you propose some different ways to “tilt the axis” of his career and gain some new perspectives. Tell us about it.

A: I know it might seem blasphemous to some fans that I’m decentering Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut’s masterpiece, break-through novel, and most significant contribution to American war/anti-war literature. However, I think Slaughterhouse-Five’s canonical and cultural position often shifts attention away from other important threads and specific texts in the Vonnegut canon. In some ways Slaughterhouse-Five is becoming the Vonnegutian equivalent of Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Aside from “Harrison Bergeron” or perhaps Cat’s Cradle, it’s the one text students are reading in school (which is kind of funny given the novel’s long history of being censored). Ultimately, though, very few of the students who take my Vonnegut classes or seminars would select Slaughterhouse-Five as their favorite or as Vonnegut’s most important work.

By tilting the axis of Vonnegut’s career to focus instead on his environmental commitments and engagements with sustainability, I hope to offer some new ways of thinking about specific works and the Vonnegut canon as a whole.

Read the full interview here.

Philip Roth, Father’s Day, and Weekly Trivia – June 17, 2018

The Daily Vonnegut mourns the recent passing of the great American novelist Philip Roth.  Vonnegut’s Jailbird and Roth’s The Ghost Writer were both Main Selections of the Book of the Month Club in September 1979–a marvelous month to be a reader.

This week’s question is about Kurt Vonnegut Sr.

Q: What was Kurt Vonnegut Senior’s occupation?

a) Doctor

b) Architect

c) Hardware store owner

d) Pharmacist

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was D – The Sirens of Titan was Vonnegut’s second published novel.

In celebration of Father’s Day, here’s a video of Mark Vonnegut discussing his father’s life and work.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of June 10, 2018

While traveling in Scotland last week, I encountered two Vonnegut fans who noticed my Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library baseball cap and shared their appreciation for Vonnegut’s work.  Kurt’s appeal is truly global.

This week’s question tests our readers chronological knowledge.

Q: Which of the following titles was Vonnegut’s second published novel?

a) Player Piano

b) Canary in a Coal Mine

c) Mother Night

D) The Sirens of Titan

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to our previous question was B – Vonnegut taught at the University of Iowa during the 1960’s.

For more, check out this 1983 interview.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of May 27, 2018

Sadly, Loree Rackstraw, a long time friend of Kurt Vonnegut, has passed away.  Rackstraw’s 2009 memoir, Love, As Always, Kurt, is an engaging recollection of her time as one of Vonnegut’s writing students as well as her ongoing friendship with Kurt after graduation.  A professor at the University of Northern Iowa as well as a former editor of The North American Review, Rackstraw also wrote several academic articles about Vonnegut’s work.  For more, see this recent piece from The Courier.

This week’s question is about Vonnegut’s teaching career:

Q: At which university did Kurt Vonnegut teach creative writing during the mid-1960’s?

a) Bennington

b) The University of Iowa

c) The University of Northern Iowa

d) Grinnell College

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was B – “Now It’s The Women’s Turn” was the name of the painting revealed to Circe Berman at the end of Bluebeard.

For more, here’s a 1998 clip of Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer discussing writing and creativity.

 

Vonnegut on Guns

With another school shooting in the news last week, it’s worth revisiting some of Kurt Vonengut’s writing about guns.  In Fates Worst than Death, Vonnegut writes:

  “When Charlton Heston (a movie actor who once played Jesus with shaved armpits) tells me in TV commercials about all the good work the National Rifle Association (to which Father and I both belonged when I was a kid) is doing, and how glad I should be that civilians can and do keep military weapons in their homes or vehicles or places of work, I feel exactly as though he were praising the germs of some loathsome disease, since guns in civilian hands, whether accidentally or on purpose, kill so many of us day after day.”        Fates Worse Than Death, pages 80-81

His strongest statement on guns can be found in Deadeye Dick, in which Rudy Waltz earns his nickname by firing a rifle out the window of his home, accidentally killing a pregnant woman.  In response, George Metzger, the woman’s husband, makes the following statement:

     “My wife has been killed by a machine which should never have come into the hands of any human being.  It is called a firearm.  It makes the blackest of all human wishes come true at once, at a distance: that something die.  There is evil for you.  We cannot get rid of mankind’s fleetingly wicked wishes.  We can get rid of the machines that make them come true.  I give you a holy word: DISARM.”   Deadeye Dick, page 87

Finally, from Fates Worse Than Death, page 81:

“I used to be very good with guns, was maybe the best shot in my company when I was a PFC.  But I wouldn’t have one of the motherfuckers in my house for anything.”

Peace.

 

  

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of May 20, 2018

This week’s question is from Bluebeard, published in 1987.

Q: What is the name of the painting in the potato barn revealed to Circe Berman at the end of the novel?

a) Windsor Blue Number Seventeen

b) Now It’s The Women’s Turn

c) The Unforeseen Wilderness

d) Bluebeard

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was A – Kurt’s mother tried to earn money writing fiction during the Great Depression.

For more, here’s a 1999 episode of Bookworm, hosted by Michael Silverblatt.  Recorded after the release of Bogambo Snuff Box, Vonnegut discusses his early short fiction.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of May 13, 2018

For Mother’s Day, here’s a question about Edith Sophia Lieber Vonnegut, Kurt’s mother.

Q: During the Great Depression, Kurt’s mother Edith tried to earn money through which creative endeavor?

a) Fiction writing

b) Landscape Painting

c) Portrait Painting

d) Playing cello in the Indianapolis orchestra

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to our last question is A – The Holiday Inn is the setting for a pivotal scene in Breakfast of Champions.

Here’s a rare of clip of Kurt discussing his artwork in an October 2000 interview with Donald Friedman.

Readers interested in Vonnegut’s art should pick up a copy of Kurt Vonnegut Drawings, which featured contributions from Vonnegut scholar Peter Reed and Kurt’s daughter, Nanette.

Kurt Vonnegut Drawings

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of April 29, 2018

This week’s question is from Breakfast of Champions, published in 1973.

Q: A pivotal scene in Breakfast of Champions is set in the lounge of which famous hotel chain?

a) Holiday Inn

b) Howard Johnson

c) Best Western

d) The Hilton

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to our question from two weeks ago was D- Bruce Willis played Dwayne Hoover in the film adaptation of Breakfast of Champions.

For more, here’s a 2006 interview with Kurt Vonnegut on the public radio program Bookworm, hosted by the great Michael Silverblatt.

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of April 15, 2018

This week’s question is from the world of film:

Q: In the 1999 film version of Breakfast of Champions, which actor plays Dwayne Hoover?

a) Nick Nolte

b) Albert Finney

c) Jerry Lewis

d) Bruce Willis

Check back next week for the answer (or watch the video clip below).  The correct response to last week’s question was B – Helga Noth was Howard W. Campbell’s wife.

If you’ve never seen the film version of Breakfast of Champions, it is available in full, for free, on YouTube.   Be warned: in an interview included with the audiobook of the novel, Vonnegut and his longtime friend Donald Farber described the movie as “painful to watch.”

Here’s a clip of the trailer.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of April 8, 2018

This week’s question is from Mother Night, published in 1961, the novel Vonnegut famously deemed “the only story of mine whose moral I know …We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be …”

Q: What was the name of Howard W. Campbell’s German wife?

a) Eva Noth

b) Helga Noth

c) Resi Noth

d) Wanda Noth

Check back next week for the correct answer.

For more, here’s a 1997 interview featuring writers Bruce Jay Friedman, Dan Wakefield, and Kurt Vonnegut with host Charlie Rose discussing film adaptations of their work.

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of March 25, 2018

On this Palm Sunday, our question of the week comes from Vonnegut’s 1981 “autobiographical collage,” Palm Sunday.

Q: Palm Sunday includes Vonnegut’s update, in script format, of which classic work of literature?

a) Moby Dick

b) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

c) Romeo and Juliet

d) A Christmas Carol   

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was D – Winston Niles Rumfoord’s dog’s name was Kazak.

For more, here’s a clip of actor Benedict Cumberbatch reading a letter from Kurt Vonnegut to the headmaster of a school who had burned copies of  Vonnegut’s books.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of March 18, 2018

This week’s question is from The Sirens of Titan, first published in 1959.

What is the name of Winston Niles Rumfoord’s dog?

a) Duke

b) Malachi

c) Beatrice

d) Kazak

Here’s a clue: A dog by the same name also appears in Breakfast of Champions and Galapagos.

The answer to last week’s question was A – Wanda June was hit by an ice cream truck.

If you missed the recent interview with Professor Kevin Brown on minor characters’ narratives in Slaughterhouse-House Five, you can read it here:

Harmful Untruths – An Interview with Kevin Brown

For more, check out this strange clip featuring Vonnegut,  his wife Jill Krementz, and author Gore Vidal.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of March 11, 2018

This week’s question visits the theater:

In Kurt Vonnegut’s play, Happy Birthday, Wanda June, we meet Wanda June in the hereafter.  How was Wanda June killed?

a) Hit by an ice cream truck

b) Struck by a random bullet fired out a window

c) Killed during the bombing of Dresden

d) Poisoned by swallowing Drano

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was B– Edgar Derby, in Slaughterhouse-Five, was executed for stealing a teapot in the ruins of Dresden.

Here’s a clip from the film version of Happy Birthday, Wanda June.  Vonnegut himself disliked the film.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of March 4, 2018

This week’s question is from Slaughterhouse-Five:

Which character was executed for stealing a teapot in the ruins of Dresden?

a) Paul Lazzaro

b) Edgar Derby

c) Joe Crone

d) Bernard B. O’Hare

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’ s question was B- Homelessness, the topic for which Lee Stringer was known.  A conversation between Stringer and Vonnegut is featured in the book  Like Shaking Hands with God, published in 1999 by Seven Stories Press.

For more on Slaughterhouse-Five and the significance of its minor characters, see the recent interview with Dr. Kevin Brown of Lee University.

Harmful Untruths – An Interview with Kevin Brown

Finally, here’s a  lecture by Charles Shields, author of the 2012 Vonnegut biography And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life

Harmful Untruths – An Interview with Kevin Brown

One of Kurt Vonnegut’s most enduring phrases is foma, harmless untruths that can make life easier. Yet Vonnegut also explored the opposite—harmful untruths, lies people believe which create havoc for individuals and society. Professor Kevin Brown, in an essay titled “No All Untruths are Harmless: Minor Characters’ Narratives in Slaughterhouse-Five,” examined how Vonnegut brought these harmful untruths to life in his classic novel.  Brown presented the essay to the Kurt Vonnegut Society at the American Literature Association conference in 2017.

Brown shared his thoughts with The Daily Vonnegut.

Q: There are two dominant critical interpretations of Billy Pilgrim’s creation of Tralfamadore in Slaughterhouse-Five. One sees it as a coping mechanism, the other as a means of escape. Which interpretation do you argue in your essay?  

A: I argue that Billy’s creation of Tralfamadore is a means of escape, that he is unable to cope with what he saw in Dresden and the emptiness of his life otherwise. I can understand how other critics view Tralfamadore as a creative and productive reaction for Billy, I just don’t see enough evidence in the novel that Billy ever copes with what he has experienced. His acceptance of the Tralfamadorian philosophy of fatalism (or quietism, as some say) seems to go against everything else Vonnegut seems to be doing in this novel and in his other works.

For the complete interview, click below:

Harmful Untruths – An Interview with Kevin Brown

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of February 25, 2018

Here’s this week’s question:

In 1999, Seven Stories Press published Like Shaking Hands with God, a conversation about writing between Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer.

What subject was Lee Stringer known for writing about?

a) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

b) Homelessness

c) Civil Disobedience

c) Military intervention in Central America

Check back next week for the correct response.  The answer to last week’s question was C – Vonnegut’s essay “Teaching the Unteachable” was about learning to write well.

Here’s a 1999 clip from a commencement address delivered to Agnes Scott College in Georgia.  The text from the speech appeared in 2014 in If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?, a collection of graduation speeches published by Seven Stories Press.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of February 18, 2018

Here’s another question from Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons:

In the essay “Teaching the Unteachable,” what subject does Vonnegut consider unteachable?

a) How to be happy

b) How to be a good spouse

c) How to write well

d) How to survive being a POW

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was A- The 1972 Republican Convention, which Vonnegut described as “Disneyland under martial law.”

Need help navigating the ups and downs of online life?  Jaya Saxena, on Electric Lit, offers “What Kurt Vonnegut Can Teach Us About Coping With the Internet.”

Thanks to Jim O’Loughlin for the sending the link to Electric Lit.  Check out this interview with Jim about new fiction inspired by Vonnegut’s work.

Jim O’Loughlin – The World of Kurt Vonnegut

O’Loughlin’s Vonnegut-inspired story, “I Need a Miracle,” is available here.

Finally, for more Vonnegut, here’s a 2005 appearance on CSPAN-2’s Book TV.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of February 11, 2018

Here’s another question from Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons:

In the essay “In a Manner That Must Shame God Himself,” first published in Harper’s Magazine, Vonnegut described which event as “Disneyland under martial law?”

a) The 1972 Republican Convention

b)  The 1968 Democratic Convention

c) The 1974 Super Bowl

d) The film set for the movie of Slaughterhouse-Five

Check back next week for the correct response.  The answer to last week’s question was A – The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the subject of the essay, “Yes, We Have No Nirvanas.”

The essay “In a Manner That Must Shame God Himself” was referenced this week by Eric Ortiz in a column for the website Truthdig.com. Ortiz describes Vonnegut as a “master or irony.”  The essay is available here:    A County without a Heart

In the following clip, from an interview with Charlie Rose, Vonnegut discusses the film version of Mother Night.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of February 4, 2018

This week’s question is from Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons:

In the essay “Yes, We have No Nirvanas,” originally published in Esquire, Vonnegut writes about which real-life figure?

a) Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

b) Timothy Leary

c) Wavy Gravy

d) Madame Blavatsky

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to last week’s question was B- Jailbird, which begins:   “Yes–Kilgore Trout is back again.  He could not make it on the outside.  That is no disgrace.  A lot of good people can’t make it on the outside.”

For more on Vonnegut, here’s a short interview from 1979 featuring Vonnegut, his daughter Edith, and TV Personality Gene Shalit.  Among the topics discussed is the off-Broadway musical adaptation of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.

Three Minutes with Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of January 28, 2018

Here’s another opening line from the work of Kurt Vonnegut:

Q: Which Vonnegut novel begins: “Yes–Kilgore Trout is back again.  He could not make it on the outside.  That is no disgrace.  A lot of good people can’t make it on the outside.”

a) Breakfast of Champions

b) Jailbird

c) Bluebeard

d) Timequake

Check back next week for the correct response.  The answer to last week’s question is A- The Sirens of Titan, which begins, “Everyone now knows how to find the meaning of life within himself.” 

For more on Vonnegut, here’s a review from The Times Literary Supplement on the recently published Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories.

So It Went

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of January 21, 2018

For this week’s question, here’s another opening line from a Vonnegut novel.

Q: Which novel begins with the sentence: ‘Everyone now knows how to find the meaning of life within himself.”   

a) The Sirens of Titan

b) Cat’s Cradle

C) Hocus Pocus

D) Timequake

Check back next week for the correct response.  The answer to the January 7th question was B–Breakfast of Champions ends with the single word, “Etc.”

For more Vonnegut, here’s a 1989 interview featuring Kurt Vonnegut on The Dick Cavett Show.  Vonnegut discusses the then-current humanitarian crisis in Mozambique.

 

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of January 7, 2018

For this week’s question, we look at the ending line of a classic Vonnegut novel.

Q: Which novel ends with the abbreviation for “et cetera?”

a) Mother Night

b) Breakfast of Champions

C) Bluebeard

d) Hocus Pocus   

Check back next week for the correct response.  The answer to last week’s question was D – Deadeye Dick, which begins with the sentence:   To the as-yet unborn, to all innocent wisps of undifferentiated nothingness: watch out for life. 

Fore more Vonnegut, here’s the classic cameo from Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School.  The actor playing Dangerfield’s son, Keith  Gordon, would later direct the 1996 adaptation of Mother Night.

Vonnegut scholar Lawrence Broer on the evolution of Kilgore Trout

In a 2017 interview with The Daily Vonnegut, Professor Lawrence Broer discussed his 2011 book Vonnegut & Hemingway – Writers at War.  In the following excerpt, not included in last year’s interview, Broer discusses the evolution of Vonnegut’s most famous character, Kilgore Trout:

Q: How does the role of Vonnegut’s most famous character, Kilgore Trout, evolve from the early work to Trout’s final appearance in Timequake? 

A: Clearly Trout is Vonnegut’s most complex and intriguing fictional persona. His early appearance in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is to me ambiguous, neither wholly positive nor negative. On the one hand Trout’s condemnation of corporate greed and cruelty is vintage Vonnegut. Serving as advisor to Eliot’s father in preparation for Eliot’s sanity hearing, Trout argues the importance of valuing people without wealth or influence, eschewing the nonsensical notion that people are poor for the lack of trying. He praises Eliot’s devotion to volunteer firemen for the exemplary unselfishness that Eliot wants to emulate. On the other hand Trout gets a fifty thousand dollar consultant fee, and I find his speech about Eliot’s concept of “uncritical love” rhetorically pompous in contrast to Eliot’s personal and immediate suffering.

Vonnegut’s more ambitious plans for Trout as his own more bitter and cynical Trout-self become clear in Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions where Trout is described as that “unhappy failure” who represents all the artists who searched for truth and beauty without finding “doodly-squat!” We learn in Breakfast that Trout’s idea of the purpose of human life and, presumably, of his own artistic mission has been to be the eyes and ears and conscience of God, but that years of neglect and a growing sense of a life not worth living have made him temperamentally unfit for the task. He no longer harbors ideas about how things should be on earth, pouring his pessimism into books so demoralizing they drive readers like Dwayne Hoover crazy. Trout’s science fiction novel Now It Can Be Told convinces Dwayne people are nothing more than machines incapable of thinking, feeling, or making choices, so as machines he might as well treat them as inhumanely as he pleases. He subsequently embarks on a rampage that sends eleven people to the hospital.

What I had not sufficiently noticed before you got me re-reading was that the books by Trout that Eliot Rosewater introduces Billy Pilgrim to in Slaughterhouse-Five are all similarly cynical and despairing. Billy doesn’t just become Trout’s biggest fan, novels interwoven throughout Slaughterhouse-Five like Maniacs in the Fourth Dimension and The Gospel from Outer Space, about time travel and visitors from outer space shaped like Tralfamadorians (“by the way”) appear to inspire Billy’s lunatic fantasy of Tralfamadore where he comes to believe there is no such thing as free will and therefore no ability to influence his own life. It’s understanding this, I think, that when Billy’ asks his daughter who she would like to kill, she responds, “That wrier Kilgore Trout.”

While Trout appears cynical and even mean spirited in Slaughterhouse-Five, his appearance in Galapagos is outright sinister. Presaged in Breakfast of Champions, where we’re told Trout’s pessimism “destroyed his three marriages, and drove Leo, his son, away from home,” the life hating Trout of Galapagos encourages his son to kill himself, calling Leo’s curiosity about life foolish. When Leo says he wants more time to complete his research into the human mind and heart and into dehumanizing mechanistic structures, Trout tells him he is nothing better than a machine himself, that the more he learns about people, the more disgusted he will become. Yet in Timequake, Trout undergoes the most startling character transformation in Vonnegut’s work. While the novel opens with a list of the living dead, which once would have included “the cracked Messiah” Trout as Vonnegut calls him in Slaughterhouse-Five, and the author himself, it is the spirit of Jesus Christ and the Sermon on the Mount that comes to the fore, Trout as artist-shaman, offering a prayer for mercy and respect: “For Christ’s sake, let’s help more of our frightened people get through this thing, whatever it is.”

Vonnegut’s long suffering, most volatile literary figure finds himself the sole person not only to understand the destructive nature of “timequakes”—a psychic phenomenon that causes people to relive past experiences on “auto-pilot,” will-less and destined to make the same mistakes over again—but to oppose it in dramatic fashion by harnessing the power of language to battle timequake will-lessness and despair. He explains to those afflicted with will-lessness, “You were sick, but now you’re well and there’s work to do.” We read that poisoned with “Post Time Quake” apathy, Hemingway and Vonnegut’s mother may have killed themselves, “but not Kilgore Trout.” Vonnegut declares, “His “indestructible self-respect is what I loved most about Kilgore Trout.”

Trout is taken to the writer’s retreat at Xanadu where he is given the Ernest Hemingway suite, in which he lives out his final days as a healer battling the effect of PTA—post timequake inertia. Notably it is on Hemingway’s bed that Trout at first continues writing stories that threaten to infect his readers with his own disillusionment causing them to believe they can no more feel or reason than grandfather clocks. It’s Trout’s role as an irresponsible author that explains Vonnegut’s view of Hemingway as a writer like himself who has harmed readers with his own pessimistic belief that human beings are no better than robots in a meaningless world, fostering apathy that in turn fosters aggression. We recall for instance Jake Barnes’ cynicism as the close of The Sun Also Rises, Frederic Henry’s feelings of futility at the end of A Farewell to Arms, and Howard Campbell’s despairing realization in Mother Night that his Nazi broadcasts have given “shape and direction” to his listeners, turning them into homicidal monsters. Vonnegut sees how natural it would be for people to behave abominably after reading about people such a Frederic Henry or Dwayne Hoover in books. But with a nod to Rabo Karabekian’s awareness-making art in Bluebeard, Trout’s literary metamorphosis re-directs him to write stories combing traditional humanism with the openness and philosophical pluralism of Pablo Picasso’s paintings in the Museum of Modern Art. He expresses his contempt for “cruel inventions,” “irresistible forces in nature” and fictions with absolute moral codes, closed scripts that privilege masculine authority and contain romantic plots such as Vonnegut decries in A Farewell To Arms. If Vonnegut and Trout are still susceptible to the potentially fatal pull of PTA it is their hopeful voice inspired by their faith in the inviolability of human awareness the prevails in Timequake. 

Evoking the image of Trout in Slaughterhouse-Five as a “cracked Messiah, “and Trout’s existence as a fragment of Vonnegut’s own dived psyche, Vonnegut makes good on his promise in Breakfast of Champions to make Trout whole. “I have broken your mind to pieces,” he tells Trout. “I want to make it whole. I want you to feel a wholeness and inner harmony such as I have never allowed you to feel before.”

For more, read the entire 2017 interview with Broer:

Vonnegut and Hemingway – An Interview with Lawrence Broer

Vonnegut Trivia – January 1, 2018

Happy New Year from The Daily Vonnegut.  Thanks to all of those who visited the site in 2017.  We kick off this year’s trivia with the opening line from a Vonnegut novel.

Which novel begins with the following sentence: To the as-yet unborn, to all innocent wisps of undifferentiated nothingness: watch out for life. 

a) Slapstick

b) Jailbird

c) Bluebeard

d) Deadeye Dick  

Check back next week for the correct response.  The answer to last week’s question is B – God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, which begins with the sentence:  “A sum of money is a leading character in this tale about people, just as a sum of honey might properly be a leading character in a tale about bees.”

For more, visit our Vonnegut Video of the Month.

Vonnegut Trivia: Week of December 24, 2017

Happy Holidays from The Daily Vonnegut.  Thanks to everyone who has visited the site in 2017.  Here’s this week’s question:

Which Vonnegut novel begins with the following sentence:  “A sum of money is a leading character in this tale about people, just as a sum of honey might properly be a leading character in a tale about bees.”

a) The Sirens of Titan

b) God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

c) Bluebeard

d) Hocus Pocus

Check back next week for the correct response.   The answer to last week’s question was A – The Beatles. Vonnegut described the Fab Four as artists who made people “appreciate being alive at least a little bit.”

Interested in staying in a house built by Kurt’s grandfather, Clemens Vonnegut Jr.?  The summer rates are fit for a Rosewater, but the house features a view of Lake Maxinkuckee.  For more, visit www.Vonneguthouse.com.

 

Vonnegut Trivia: Week of December 17, 2017

This week’s question is from Timequake, Vonnegut’s last novel, published in 1997.

At the beginning of Timequake, Vonnegut writes that “a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit.”  Who does Vonnegut identify as an artist(s) who pulled it off?

a) The Beatles

b) Laurel and Hardy

c) Bob and Ray

d) Benny Goodman

Check back next week for the correct response.  The answer to last week’s question was C.  San Lorenzo is the small island nation on which much of Cat’s Cradle is set.

Still not done with your holiday shopping for the Vonnegut fan in your life?  Visit Vonnegut.com for gift ideas.

www.Vonnegut.com

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of December 10, 2017

This week’s question is from Cat’s Cradle, first published in 1963.

What is the name of the small island nation on which much of the novel is set?

a) San Marcos

b) St. Sebastian

c) San Lorenzo

d) San Simeon

Check back next week for the correct response.  The answer to last week’s question was Utopia-14, the alternative title under which Player Piano was once published.

In Vonnegut news, Variety has reported that a series based on Slaughterhouse-Five is now in development.  For more, read here.

Vonnegut Trivia – Week of December 3, 2017

For this week’s question we visit Kurt Vonnegut’s debut novel, Player Piano.

Q:  Player Piano was also published under a different title.  What was it?

a) Utopia-14

b) The Revenge of the Machines

c) Illium 2000

d) Machine Head

We’ll be back next week with the correct response.  The answer to our last question is B.  In Hocus Pocus, Jack Patton invented an electric chair for rats.

Visitors or residents of Indianapolis are certain to have noticed the 38-feet painting of Vonnegut on the side of a building.  Now, Indianapolis is featuring a “Tiny Vonnegut” exhibit.  For more, see the article below at the Indy Star.

Tiny Vonnegut

 

 

 

 

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