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Customer Discussions > Kurt Vonnegut forum

Your Vonnegut Story...

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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 2, 2011 12:31:13 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 2, 2011 12:33:11 PM PST
Alright, so what I want to know is the story on how your discovered KV, your honest first impressions, and what changes did that first reading make on your life?

My story of Kurt is a simple one. I did not read much in high school, but after I graduated a had a good friend that would always rave about this book Slaughterhouse Five. I had heard of it and I knew who KV was at the time, but apart from that, I knew nothing else. A few years into college, while I was studying music and logic/rhetoric and I was attempting to formulate all of my ideas and points of view together when my girlfriend at the time bought Slaughterhouse Five, read it, and gave it to me telling me I had to read it. By this time I was much more of a reader than in high school so I took it.

That night I started on it. From the first title page with this title and rant about smoking too much and how this was a story about the aliens from trafalmadore I was in awe. I read the entire book that evening, laughing at loud when he wrote that "So it goes" for the champagne that was dead. I still remember that first time reading about how the book was a failure because it was written by a pillar of salt and how he loved Lot's Wife for looking back because it was so human. At 2 in the morning I finally went to sleep, thinking and angry at myself that I had not read this before. the next day I went to the book store and bought "Breakfast of Champions", that being the only other title that I had heard of at the time and read that.

I am thankful every day that I have read anything, fiction or non, that I can find of Kurt's.

Tell us your story!

Posted on Jan 11, 2011 12:28:43 PM PST
Cat's Cradle was my first, and I was pretty young. My family made a cross country move when I was 14, and it was before then (probably not much before). I have to admit, the primary attraction was the format: short sentences, short paragraphs, short chapters. But oh my, what he could put in those short sentences! Not only did he appeal to me as a budding liberal, but he made me laugh out loud. Isn't being funny one of the best ways to attract attention and keep and develop fondness? He's had my loyalty ever since.

Posted on Jan 12, 2011 9:09:41 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 13, 2011 8:11:39 AM PST
Kyle W. West says:
I was 26 when I first read Slaughterhouse Five. I was in the navy and on a deployment that had reached the book-swapping phase. My best friend had a copy of Slaughterhouse Five. I read it cover to cover in just about two days. I thought it was a good book, but I wasn't blown away initially. However, the story haunted me, so I read it again.

It was four years later when I read my next Vonnegut novel, Cat's Cradle. I was an anthropology major in college at the time and I remembered Vonnegut saying in Slaughterhouse Five that he had studied anthropology. I then learned that the University of Chicago had eventually granted Vonnegut his master's degree in anthropology, using Cat's Cradle in lieu of a thesis. So, I naturally had to read it. I loved it. That started a love affair with Vonnegut's books.

As far as I know, I have read every book he's written with the exception of Mother Night and the posthumously released book(s) that have yet to hit the shelves. I've even become fascinated with the man himself and have read a few books analyzing his life and works. I guess I feel some sort of common thread with him. We're both military veterans with master's degrees in anthropology and we both recognize the absurdity of human existence. However, Vonnegut preaches a sort of universal benevolence that I find hard to adhere to. But I do my best...

Posted on Jan 13, 2011 12:15:31 PM PST
You have to find a copy of Mother Night. The key to the story (and I'm not giving much away here) is roughly: Be careful what you pretend to be, for you will become that. There was a film a few years ago with Nick Nolte. Not bad, but I don't think Vonnegut's novels translate to film well. The humor and perception need his words to carry it over.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2011 1:52:07 PM PST
I have to agree, that you will have to get a read of Mother Night. It is not one of my favorites of Kurt's, but it is good. It is still somewhat early in his novel career and I do not think he had quite found that tone that we all grew to love that really started, at least for me, with Cat's Cradle.

I feel a lot like you do with some weird deep personal connection to the man and his writings. While I was never in the military nor do I have a degree in anthropology, I do have the same outlook and the same optimistic hope that leads to pessimistic depressions sometimes. Also, on the writing stand point, I write a lot of essays and editorial/criticisms and have for years. I write like Kurt does, just not as well. I have been writing like that since before I found Kurt, but after Kurt my life and outlook changed so much that I dropped a lot of the cynicism and became more positive. One of my dreams was to some day make it back east and try to meet him, but that will now never happen.

I am a member of the Vonnegut Society and received an invite to the opening of the Memorial Library, but as I am living on the West Coast, there was no way I could make it back to Indy to check it out, at least not yet. If you live anywhere in the area, you have to go see it. =)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2011 1:59:54 PM PST
Kyle W. West says:
Oh, I want to go to the Memorial Library. I don't live anywhere near Indiana, either.

I don't think that one has to have military experience or an anthropological education to connect with Kurt, and that's the beauty of his writing. I learned that we had these things in common after reading a few of his novels, and I used them to sort of justify my feelings, I guess. I'm usually not one of those "he just speaks to me!" types. And yet, he just speaks to me.

I'll be picking up Mother Night soon. I've been reading a lot of articles from the 70s about his work and Mother Night is referenced fairly often.

Posted on Aug 10, 2012 12:48:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 10, 2012 12:49:01 PM PDT
Ruthie22 says:
I read Slaughter House 5 when I was in high school because I had a brilliant teacher who loved to challenge us. I fell in love right away. I've read it many times and it's always my first recommendation to anyone and everyone. I have read all of his novels and try to get my hands on any of his interviews, speeches, and articles. I recenlty read the biography "So It Goes" that just came out. I cried and was so struck by how lonely he was. I will make it to the memorial library eventually, but I kinda want to wait a while so that I always have that to look forward to. I went through his writings so fast because I just had to read it all and now I wish I had paced myself.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 31, 2013 3:53:56 PM PDT
I interviewed Kurt Vonnegut when I was 18 and he was on campus at the University of Iowa. The course (I was doing one hour of Special Projects) was American Humor & Satire and I was one hour shy of being able to transfer to Berkeley, where I had just spent the Summer of Love (1965). I desperately wanted to return to California, full-time, so, following in the tradition I had lived since age 10, when I began conducting interiews for my hometown newspaper in Independence, Iowa, I prepared a paper on the black humorists of the day that we were studying (Joseph Heller, Vonnegut, et. al.) and marched down to the temporary quonset huts to speak to the Great Man.

He hated me on sight, I think.

He was like a bad guest on Johnny Carson and I'll never forget his irascible response to my question, "How would you compare your world view to that of Joseph Heller?" He said, "There's no basis for comparison." He was like that throughout the interview and my paper (and grade) suffered. I needed a "B" average to transfer to Berkeley, and I HAD to be taking 15 hrs (I had signed up for 14). Thanks to Kurt Vonnegut, I did not get to leave Iowa (got a "C+") and, after my personal experience with Vonnegut, the man, I never read a book of his again, despite having loved "God Bless You Mr. Rosewater or Pearls Before Swine," "Cat's Cradle," etc. I did enjoy his early stuff much more than his late-in-life stuff.

And I ended up with Edie Vonnegut in my literature class at University Lab Schools. (She never came to class). She later briefly married Geraldo Rivera, making Kurt Geraldo's father-in-law.

I always wondered how my life might have been different if Kurt Vonnegut had been a nice person, rather than a crabby curmudgeon. (And I have MORE crabby curmudgeon stories from those who taught with him at the University's Writers' Workshop, so it's not just me.)

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In reply to an earlier post on Jul 31, 2013 4:00:44 PM PDT
Kyle W. West says:
He's one of those people that I admire, but I'm glad I never met. I'm a bit of a curmudgeon myself, so I get where it comes from, but I'm glad I never experienced it firsthand from someone I hold in high regard. Hunter S. Thompson was an absolute delight, however.
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Discussion in:  Kurt Vonnegut forum
Participants:  5
Total posts:  9
Initial post:  Jan 2, 2011
Latest post:  Jul 31, 2013

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