Slaughterhouse-Five – 50th Anniversary

In 2019 The Daily Vonnegut will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 masterpiece, Slaughterhouse-Five, “a novel somewhat in the telegraphic schizophrenic manner of tales of the planet Tralfamadore, where the flying saucers come from.  Peace.”

Over the next twelve months we’ll take a look at what different writers, critics, and scholars have had to say about the merits and impact of Vonnegut’s classic.  For starters, here’s an excerpt from the 1969 New York Times review by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, published March 31, 1969:

Kurt Vonnegut knows all the tricks of the writing game. So he has not even tried to describe the bombing. Instead he has written around it in a highly imaginative, often funny, nearly psychedelic story. The story is sandwiched between an autobiographical introduction and epilogue.

Lehmann-Haupt described the novel as “very tough and very funny; it is sad and delightful, and it works.”  The full review is available here:

Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade

For more, here’s a 2012 lecture by Michael Krasny, host of public radio’s KQED Forum, “Slaughterhouse-Five and Its Relevance to Our Time.”

Among other topics, Krasny addresses four ways to look at a work of literature along with Vonnegut’s reputation as a science fiction writer and how the novel’s sci-fi elements influenced its reception.

Gentle People Sharing a Common Bowl – Happy Holidays from The Daily Vonnegut

Though Kurt Vonnegut identified as a secular humanist, he often described himself as a “Christ-loving atheist,” and readers can find a wealth of reflections on Christ and Christianity within Vonnegut’s work.  Among The Daily Vonnegut’s favorites:

From Fates Worse Than Death:

“The first story of mine that got into trouble with the sincerely Christian far right was about time travelers who went back to Bible times and discovered that Jesus Christ was five feet, two inches tall.  I think I liked Jesus more than the story’s naysayers did, since I was asserting that I didn’t care how tall or short He was.”

From God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian:

“My great grandfather Clemens Vonnegut wrote, for example, ‘If what Jesus said was good, what can it matter whether he was God or not?'”

Also from God Bless  You, Dr. Kevorkian:

“I myself have written, ‘If it weren’t for the message of mercy and pity in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, I wouldn’t want to be a human being.  I would just as soon be a rattlesnake.”

And from the Playboy Interview, found in Conversations with Kurt Vonnegut:

“I admire Christianity more than anything–Christianity as symbolized by gentle people sharing a common bowl.”

For more, read Vonnegut’s friend Dan Wakefield’s essay from Image Journal, “Kurt Vonnegut, Christ-Loving Atheist.”

For trivia fans, the correct response to our last question was D.  Mary Kathleen O’Looney was the mysterious Mrs. Jack Graham in Jailbird.

Finally, here’s 1 1983 interview in which Vonnegut discusses his life and career.

Happy holidays from The Daily Vonnegut.

Vonnegut Trivia, A Century of Reading, and 86,000 copies of Slaughterhouse-Five

We begin this post with a trivia question from Kurt Vonnegut’s Jailbird, published in 1979.

Q:  In Jailbird, Walter F. Starbuck discovers that which of his former lovers is the notorious Mrs. Jack Graham, majority stockholder in the RAMJAC Corporation?

a) Sarah Wyatt

b) Alexandria McCone

c) Diana Moon Glampers

d) Mary Kathleen O’Looney

Check out our next post for the correct answer. .

The website Literary Hub recently published its “Century of Reading,” highlighting ten significant literary works from each decade starting with the 1910’s.  Slaughterhouse-Five is included among the ten major books published in the 1960’s.  Literary Hub‘s Emily Temple describes the novel as “a touchstone for young readers” and a “cult classic.”  While it’s always good to see Vonnegut’s work acknowledged for its lasting influence, its classification as an important work for “young readers” continues to frustrate, as if one must be young to appreciate Vonnegut’s masterful blend of history, science fiction, satire, and humanism.  Readers of any age can enjoy Vonnegut–it’s never too late to read Vonnegut for the first time.   The “Century of Reading” series, which is great fun and well worth reading, is available on the LitHub website.

A Century of Reading – The 1960’s

In a giving mood for the holidays?  The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is looking to distribute 86,000 copies of Slaughterhouse-Five next year to Indiana high school students in celebration of the novel’s 50th anniversary.  A $5 donation will provide one student with a copy of the novel.  Contributions can be made here.

Peace.

 

Happy Birthday, Kurt Vonnegut

On November 11, 1922, a peephole opened quite suddenly in Indianapolis.  Light and sound poured in, and the wisp of undifferentiated nothingness we now know as Kurt Vonnegut came into the world.  Happy Birthday, Kurt!

Wheelhouse Theater Company continues its lively revival of Vonnegut’s Happy Birthday, Wanda June at New York’s The Duke on 42nd Street.  Tickets are still available through November 29.  Purchase them here.

For more on Wanda June, check out the following from The New York Times.

“Kurt Vonnegut’s Vietnam-Era Play Lands with a Gasp.”

For those who missed it, here’s The Daily Vonnegut‘s interview with Wheelhouse founding members Jeffrey Wise and Matt Harrington.

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

Thinking about celebrating Kurt’s birthday with a tattoo?  There’s no shortage of Vonnegut-inspired tattoos on display online.  Here’s one featuring a classic Vonnegut quote.

Tattoo 2

Finally, a quote from Kurt’s Aunt Irma, from Charles J. Shields’s Vonnegut biography, And So It Goes.  Aunt Irma (Kurt Sr.’s sister), describing baby Kurt:

“A beautiful boy with curly hair–an exceptionally beautiful child, really.”

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.