We’re putting our interns to work to provide via our new and improved Tumblr a blog series history of Kurt Vonnegut. Every couple of days we’ll be providing unique stories and facts about Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five,and our own production’s role in the history of the celebrated author and arguably most infamous science fiction novel of all time. In part 1 of this series we delve into the mind of Kurt Vonnegut, his childhood, and series of events that could have incepted the idea of Slaughterhouse-Five. Enjoy
Kurt Vonnegut truly transformed science fiction, creating a chaotic conceivable world of irrationality, humor, and fictional-realism. He was born during modernism, but after his service in WWII immersed his writing, and in many ways his life, into the post-modern art critique. His fiction is not pure escapism, but dangerously realistic and poignant to the relationship between daily tragedy and comedy. Vonnegut’s works to some are absurd, but they convey a deeper understanding of the world that lives off the pages.
Vonnegut allowed events during his early life to push him into transforming science fiction. He was born on November 11, 1922 into a German-American family of free thinkers. His great-grandfather, Clemens Vonnegut, had authored a free-thought book titled Instruction in Morals and his own funeral address denying the existence of God, an afterlife, and Christian doctrines. The denunciation of Christianity was unheard of in 1920s & 1930s Indiana, where Vonnegut grew up, but young Kurt continued throughout life to be a skeptic of Christianity. He considered the writings of his great-grandfather to be his “ancestral religion”.
Kurt Jr. was born into wealth. His father, Kurt Sr., was a prominent architect and partner at the firm Vonnegut & Bohn. His mother, Edith, was the daughter of a wealthy Indianapolis brewer. Kurt Jr. inherited his father’s name, but he was actually the youngest of three children. His older brother Bernard would go on to follow in the path of his father and grandfather by attending MIT. His sister Alice was sweet, kind, and known for her terrible back luck. The Vonneguts lived a privileged life, until the stock market crash forced Kurt Sr. to close the architectural firm and sell the family home. Kurt Jr. was taken out of private school and had a childhood filled with confusion and pessimism. His father slipped into addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs. His mother became depressed. His parents had been financially blindsided by the Great Depression, and Kurt Jr was forced to grow up too quickly.
Vonnegut attended Shortridge High School and wrote for the student paper, The Echo. He found his peace in journalism. After graduating Shortridge in May 1940 he attended Cornell as a chemistry major, but found himself more interested in journalism. He became managing editor of the student paper, The Sun. Kurt Jr. described himself as a lousy chemistry student, but dedicated himself to the craft of journalism and creative writing. He might have written his first novel at Cornell, but the European Theatre had other plans for him.
In our next part we examine Kurt Vonnegut’s service in Europe during WWII and its clear impact on his writing and in particular, Slaughterhouse-Five. If you’re a fan of True False Theatre or Kurt Vonnegut in general, please considering contributing to our theatrical production this August as part of the 2013 New York Fringe Festival. Please click the link: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/fringenyc-and-true-false-theatre-present-slaughterhouse-five-by-kurt-vonnegut