Kurt Vonnegut - The Man and His Work

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Kurt Vonnegut – The Man and His Work

One of the best, most valuable aspects of reading multiple works by the same author is getting to know the author as a person. People don't identify with Gregor Samsa; they identify with Kafka. Witness the love exhibited by the many fans of Hemingway, a love for both the texts and the drama of the man. It's like that for me with Kurt Vonnegut, but it strikes me that he pulls it off in an entirely different way.

Kafka's work is a reaction to his mental anguish, which is kind of like Vonnegut, who has dealt with the bulk of his personal hardships throughout his career, but those hardships are not his sole motivation. And, while he's lead an interesting life, it doesn't seem nearly as dramatic or romantic as Hemingway's. Plus, Vonnegut is much more overt than either of the two about his authorial involvement in his work.

But what really forces Vonnegut to impose his presence on the text is his complete inability to remove himself at all from the act of communication at the core of any work of literature. He revels in that involvement. He has mentioned his desire, what he implies is a universal need of all human beings, for some "soul-deep fun." He uses this term as a synonym for greatness. And this has lead to some nasty comments in fiction workshops about stories that I've written: complaints of flat characters, cartoonish plotlines, non-directed criticism, overall pessimism and over-sentimentality for all things lowbrow. Needless to say, sometimes I feel, to varying degrees of pretension, like Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was born on November 11, 1922, in Indianapolis, Indiana to Kurt Vonnegut, Sr. and Edith Lieber Vonnegut. He had an older brother named Bernard and an older sister named Alice. Kurt, Sr. was a well-known architect in the city and Edith was the daughter of a wealthy local family. The Vonneguts had been in Indianapolis for several generations, and were well-off, respected members of the community. Unlike the characters in most of his books, Vonnegut's early childhood was extremely privileged. It wasn't until the stock market crash of 1929 that he experienced the type of life that he would go on to write about in the future: the middle Middle Class.

This was devastating to his family.

According to Understanding Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. the depression moved in and made itself at home in the Vonnegut household.
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