"When you're dead, you're dead. Make love when you can. It's good for you."
Biochemistry, Cornell University; Anthropology, Chicago University
Served in US infantry in Europe during the second world war, taken prisoner (awarded Purple Heart); Chicago City News Bureau, police reporter (1946); General Electric Co., NY, public relations (1947-50); lecturer, Harvard University, (1971-72).
Did you know?
The lyrics of the worldwide hit 'Sunscreen' were attributed to Vonnegut, taken from the commencement address he made at MIT; the news spread like wildfire around the internet. Trouble was, Vonnegut has never spoken at MIT. (the real 1999 commencement address was made by Kofi Annan), and the lyrics came from a column in the Chicago Tribune.
Graham Greene called Vonnegut "one of the best living American writers", and his huge and devoted fan base around the world wouldn't have it any other way. Widespread public recognition came with the ground-breaking semi-autobiographical Slaughterhouse-Five, which welded the author's horrific experiences during the allied bombing of Dresden to a surreal, tragicomic sci-fi fatalism, but he had already honed his cosmic satire in the earlier Sirens Of Titan and Cat's Cradle. Vonnegut moved away from sci-fi but his humanism never left him; his "concern for society's more fallible specimens", as he puts it, shapes all his work, and he successfully mixes dark fatalism with both humour and hope.
Player Piano (1952), Cat's Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick (1976), Deadeye Dick (1985)
Eugene Debs, George Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, Homer's Odyssey
Now read on
Thomas Pynchon, Joseph Heller
Slaughterhouse-Five (dir George Roy Hill, 1972); Mother Night (dir Keith Gordon, 1996). Breakfast Of Champions and Sirens Of Titan are in production.
Useful links and work online
· Excerpts from Cat's Cradle
· Drawings by Kurt Vonnegut
· Get a new middle name and new cousins (as per Slapstick)
· Wikipedia entry on Vonnegut