So it goes...

Dateline: Mon 12 Oct 2009

How can you not love a man who writes a line such as this?

"The Second World War was over--and there I was at high noon, crossing Times Square with a Purple Heart on."

That's the always irreverent Kurt Vonnegut Jr., speaking in the character of Eliot Rosewater from Vonnegut's book, "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater."

Vonnegut is one of those guys who makes you feel like the smartest person in the world when you first discover his novels. That's because he writes so well, and so wittily, that you think you're in on some cosmic joke -- which is exactly right. Vonnegut is all-inclusive; welcome to his world.

Now, a group of Indianapolis residents, with support from the Vonnegut family, are taking the Indianapolis-born author's legacy to a new level: the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library -- welcome to the monkey house -- is in the process of being established.

Julia A. Whitehead, a Vonnegut fan and medical writer for Eli Lilly, is president of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Foundation. She and other volunteers -- Kip Tew, K.C. Norwalk and Corey Dalton -- were at Saturday's Oktoberfest at the Atenaeum, an ideal setting since the magnifcent historic German-American club Downtown at Mass and Michigan was built by Vonnegut's grandfather.

But it was also ideal in that the event would have provided the late author with a chuckle and perhaps material: Oktoberfest featured a "weiner dog race" (that's dachshund to you) -- which got off to a slow start because one weiner dog refused to come out of her little stall.

Here's more about the library, from its website:

"The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library will serve as a memorial to the author’s literary greatness, his humanistic vision, and his adherence to quintessential American values. The library will exhibit literature, art, and personal items of Kurt Vonnegut....

"In this unique artistic community center, visitors will be able to: browse a variety of books that are thematically linked to the life of Kurt Vonnegut; relax with a cup of coffee; view Vonnegut’s books, artwork, personal papers; attend a visiting writers lecture series; and participate in educational outreach through a partnership with local high schools, starting with the public school Kurt Vonnegut attended in Indianapolis, Shortridge High School"

Whitehead mentioned that one of the first goals of the group is to help establish a newspaper at Shortridge. That's fitting, since Vonnegut cut his writer's baby teeth at the school's paper.

For more info or to make donations, check out the website:

or shoot Whitehead an email, if for no other reason than she has the best one I've heard for a while:






Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"the magnifcent historic German-American club Downtown at Mass and Michigan was built by Vonnegut's father."

Actually it was his grandfather.

I had occasion to speak and correspond with KV. Many of his Indy childhood memories especially on Illinois Street were not exactly fond ones.

I reviewed "Mother Night" in the mid-60s, saw a preview screening of "Slaughterhouse Five" (his description of Dresden's dead when he emerged from the underground meat locker still sticks) and became a lifelong fan. You have to love a writer who says he admired Indianapolis because it was the first city to hang white men for murdering Indians (though I think it might have actually been Marion.

He remained fresh and surprising for me.

And so it goes.

2009-10-12 09:49:58

ruthholl [Member] said:

Thanks for the cx. Got it fixed.
God, those are amazing memories and anecdotes. I'd love to hear more about his childhood on Illinois -- you probably know that home sold within the last year or so.
Also, the story about Indy hanging white men etc. is a new one.
I loved what he said about smoking: "a fool on one end and a fire on the other."
Really, there is so much material there....just a rich motherlode of ideas, words, even art...
BTW the current Indianapolis Monthly has one of his short stories...I believe unpublished until now. Will have to doublecheck that.
Thanks for sharing this history.
My personal faves are Slaughterhouse and Breakfast of Champions...He's amazing because he spans generations; not only do we like him, but so do the kids...

2009-10-12 10:19:26

hendy [Member] said:

Hi ho!

2009-10-12 10:44:23

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"I'd love to hear more about his childhood on Illinois -- you probably know that home sold within the last year or so."

I knew its owner of many years. The Vonnegut kids' handprints- Kurt; his brother the "cloud genius" gone not too long ago; and his sister, youngish dead for many years-- are imbedded in cement of the backdoor stoop. When I remarked on this to KV, he said paused and said, yeah, those weren't always great times. (His mother had emotional issues.)

2009-10-12 13:01:22

ruthholl [Member] said:

Now that you bring that up, I too recall a vague memory of that sorrow.
I should also mention, I loved his son's book, The Eden Express. Did you ever read that? Account of mental illness, drug-fueled, that is cured by -- of all things -- chemistry, in the form of anti-psychotic etc. drugs...
Very authentic and valid for any child of the 1960s.

2009-10-12 15:25:24

jersey [unverified] said:

Julia is going to join us Saturday evening on WIBC to talk about the museum.

2009-10-13 09:31:53

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