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.

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 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 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