Kurt Vonnegut memorial library to open in Indianapolis

Centre in the city of Vonnegut's birth will display first editions, artwork and war medals – along with boxes of rejection letters

So it quite rightly goes: a library celebrating the life and work of novelist and humanist Kurt Vonnegut is set to open in Indianapolis this autumn.

Exhibiting first editions of his books, the rejection letters he received, his artwork and the Purple Heart he was awarded on his return from the second world war, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library will "serve as a memorial to the author's literary greatness, his humanistic vision, and his adherence to quintessential American values", according to its board.

Vonnegut died in 2007 at the age of 84, leaving behind the blackly funny science fiction classic Slaughterhouse-Five (with its famous catchphrase "so it goes") and 13 other novels, as well as numerous essays, plays and short stories. The library, in his birthplace of Indianapolis, is the brainchild of Julia Whitehead, who came up with the idea in November 2008 after wondering why there was no proper memorial to "someone as extraordinary as Vonnegut". She contacted Vonnegut's son, Mark, who became the first member of the library's board of directors, and also found support from the late author's daughters, Edie and Nanny.

This November the non-profit library will open its doors to the public, offering access to books about and by Vonnegut as well as a replica of his writing studio. In addition, there are plans for a visiting writers' lecture series and a literary magazine. The board hopes both "ardent Vonnegutians" and "newcomers to his unique wit and literary legacy" will be keen to visit.

Edie Vonnegut, who is loaning the library some of her father's rejection letters, says Vonnegut loved libraries and would have wanted aspiring writers to see how difficult the route to publication could be.

"We have boxes of rejection letters, letters saying 'You have no talent and we suggest you give up writing'," she told the Associated Press. "He did not have an easy time of it, and I think for anyone who wants to be a writer it will be important for them to see how tough it was for him."


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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