Saturday, February 5, 2011

Kurt Vonnegut or Why I Now Like Some Science Fiction

I love Kurt Vonnegut.  I haven't always.  I read Cat's Cradle in high school and totally didn't get it.  I thought it was the weirdest book ever and that it didn't have a point, though why I felt like books had to have a point is another thing entirely.  When I started teaching, I knew that I wanted to teach some science fiction, specifically the stories of Ray Bradbury, but knew that I'd need a book to center the class around.  Enter Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five.

I first heard of Slaughterhouse Five from this conversation in the movie Footloose.
Mr. Gurntz:    "He was trying to teach that book."
Mrs. Allyson: "Slaughterhouse Five, isn't that an awful name?"
Ren:                "Yeah it's a classic...Slaughterhouse Five, it's a classic."
Mr. Guntz:      "Tom Sawyer is a classic!  Do you read much?"
Mrs. Allyson:  "Maybe in another town it's a classic."
Ren:                "In any town."
Image from
I decided that it was time to read it and see if I could use it for my class.  I read it, and while I found it almost as weird as I had found Cat's Cradle, I liked it!  I couldn't wait to teach it to my students, one in particular who I thought would really like it.  I've been teaching Kurt Vonnegut for several years now and was completely surprised when I had a student this year who had not only read everything that Vonnegut had ever written; he had also read everything that Vonnegut had read under the pseudonym Kilgore Trout, who is one of his one of his characters.

Another reason I like Vonnegut is that he's from Indianapolis!  He said in a 1986 speech, "All my jokes are Indianapolis.  All my attitudes are Indianapolis.  My adenoids are Indianapolis.  If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business.  What people like about me is Indianapolis."  The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library recently opened in downtown Indianapolis.  There are all kinds of things on display there, including his typewriter and many of his drawings.  I'm hoping that Andrew and I will be able to go see it soon!


  1. My reaction was the same on reading the name of the book, it sounded aweful...
    Good you cleared the air...

  2. I was so excited to go to Dresden this fall because I had read it in Slaughterhouse Five! I haven't read the book since high school, but remember liking it very much!


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