INTRODUCTION
Vonnegut Released

Kurt Vonnegut died late in the evening of April 11, 2007, at the age of eightyfour years and five months. Five months precisely—his birth date was November 11, 1922, Armistice Day, as it was called then, when there was only one world war to remember. It was a hallowed occasion throughout the 1920s and 1930s and into the 1940s, until a new world war would steal attention. At eleven minutes after the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of each year, schoolchildren paused from their lessons for a moment of silence. At work and at home, adults would do the same. As a veteran himself, a pacifist but nobly civic in his intent, Vonnegut recalled those ceremonies as subsequent decades effaced them, the event renamed Veterans Day and for a time having its celebration shifted to the closest Monday. It has since been restored to its proper date, which pleased him. Aged veterans of the First World War had told Vonnegut that in 1918, when at this precise minute the gunfire and explosions had suddenly stopped, the silence sounded like the voice of God. Throughout his own career as a writer, he’d tried to give voice to the sentiments behind such memories of an ideal America. And now the living presence of that voice had been silenced.

His last years, the first of this new century, had been difficult for him. After Timequake (1997), his fourteenth novel, itself a struggle to produce, he complained of being tired, of wishing to do no more work. After all, he’d labored on for two decades after conventional retirement age, trying to make things better for an age in which everything seemed to be going wrong. His novel in progress, the story of an old-fashioned comedian, never took satisfactory shape; what survives is its title, If God Were Alive Today. Henceforth people worrying about subsequent atrocities and abominations might use the same sad phrase about Kurt Vonnegut. He’d tried his hardest, but with a nightmare war in Iraq, unchecked global warming, and a sad deterioration in cultural civility, the tasked seemed almost too much.

-1-

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Kurt Vonnegut's America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction - Vonnegut Released 1
  • 1 - Vonnegut’s 1950s- Human Structures 17
  • 2 - Vonnegut’s 1960s- Apocalypse Redone 40
  • 3 - Vonnegut’s 1970s- A Public Figure 63
  • 4 - Vonnegut’s 1980s- Arts and Crafts 86
  • 5 - Vonnegut’s 1990s- Autobiography and the Novel 105
  • Conclusion - Vonnegut Uncaged 123
  • Bibliography 135
  • Index 137
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