CONCLUSION
Vonnegut Uncaged

Kurt Vonnegut had stayed active late in life because, in all humility, he felt his country needed him. Or at least that he could be of use, which we know was the cardinal value he believed human beings could possess.

Before Slaughterhouse-Five brought him fame, and even celebrity, he’d given lectures when and where he could—mostly as a source of income, but also because he believed he had good advice to share. Throughout the next three decades he continued speaking, well after any need to generate income or promote the sale of books. In the years 2000–2007—into his eighties, no less— he was still making ten major lecture appearances per year. I was with him for one of these latter speeches and could see that they tired him deeply. Not to mention the hassles of post-9/11 travel and the crush of fame.

Toward the end he’d apologize for not giving autographs. Apologize, in an age when celebrity athletes grandly sold them! And even here he’d make it a joke, saying that he’d always felt awkward at such occasions. For an author, writing out something was giving away a sample of his work, almost like a doctor passing out corpses. His listeners would laugh—and understand. That’s how he found the strength to carry on speaking: for the pleasure of making people laugh, and the gratification of helping them understand.

Who else of his literary stature was doing this, after all? Somebody had better speak up, Kurt insisted. Plus there was his lingering fear that in old age he’d be forgotten, or written off as a relic of the 1960s. Events of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s were demonstrating the need for corrective comment. And even though his books remained relevant and could speak for themselves to several generations of readers, he still felt the need to get out there and make his points personally, to show his readers that he really cared.

He was always pleased that people listened. Especially young people. When critics challenged him about being able to change the minds of presidents, generals, and heads of corporations, Kurt would always reply that he was catching

-123-

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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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