Kurt Vonnegut: Images and Representations

Kurt Vonnegut: Images and Representations

Kurt Vonnegut: Images and Representations

Kurt Vonnegut: Images and Representations

Synopsis

Since the publication of his first short stories in the 1950s, Kurt Vonnegut has enjoyed much popular acclaim and has, since the 1970s, gained growing amounts of attention from the scholarly community. In the course of his career, he has become increasingly concerned with visual images. While such imagery occurs in his short fiction and novels, he has also written plays, in which ideas are visually represented on the stage. In recent years, he has devoted more and more of his time and energy to graphic art, producing paintings that are then silk screened. The contributors to this volume look at the visual images created by Vonnegut in his literary art, along with the images and representations of his thought that increasingly are being brought to life in other media.

Excerpt

Almost thirty years ago, Leslie Fiedler, the widely acclaimed critic of his time concerning contemporary literature and culture, published his seminal essay "The Divine Stupidity of Kurt Vonnegut." Appearing in the September 1970 issue of Esquire, it followed closely upon the publication of Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-Five. At that point Vonnegut had achieved much popular acclaim after twenty years of largely overlooked publication. But Fiedler's essay nevertheless was seminal in giving academic respectability to Vonnegut's recently won accolades. Vonnegut has often lamented that critics put his work in a drawer labeled science fiction, then proceed to use the drawer as a urinal. Taking a view not then widely shared, Fiedler delighted in Vonnegut precisely because he had written science fiction, putting him squarely in the historical mainstream of American popular fiction.

Today, when popular culture has largely displaced the study of literature in American universities, and when Vonnegut may be viewed more as sage than radical, Fiedler's essay hardly appears a departure in its espousal of the American tradition of the Pop Fiction novel over the High Art novel, and of Vonnegut in particular. This collection of essays, one more book among the scores that have been written about Vonnegut since The Divine Stupidity, amply demonstrates how far-sighted Fiedler's judgment was and how widely his notions have been accepted.

Fiedler's essay, restored here to general access from the fading pages of a vintage Esquire by his kind permission, anchors a collection that reaches from Vonnegut's beginnings to the comments of some younger readers and critics among his current audience. One of Fiedler's more prescient remarks is his recognition of Vonnegut's impulse away from words toward visual images. That observation was borne out in his enthusiasm for theater during the production of his play Happy Birthday, Wanda June. More recently there have been other film and theater adaptations of the novels, and this collection acknowledges that growing activity. Over the last decade, much as Fiedler suggests, Vonnegut himself has devoted . . .

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