Honors Its Literary Native Son Indianapolis
By EMMA GRAVES FITZSIMMONS
Mr. Vonnegut’s writing was filled with references to his Midwestern roots and to the tight-knit families he met growing up here. Still, some readers may be surprised that his memorial library is opening in his hometown,
As the library welcomed the public for the first time last week, the author’s friends and family said that it belonged in
“All my jokes are
Tourism officials hope the library will draw visitors from around the world to a city known more for auto racing than its literary scene.
The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, run as a nonprofit, resides in the historic
The library items on display range from the ordinary to the intergalactic, many of them donated by his children. They include the author’s typewriter and an unopened box of his
Mr. Vonnegut, who died in 2007 at the age of 84, was born here to a prominent family of architects. But after graduating from
While serving in World War II, Mr. Vonnegut was captured by the Germans during the
The library’s executive director, Julia Whitehead, said her favorite item on display was his Purple Heart medal. “The more I look at the Purple Heart,” she said, “the more I consider that horrific experience as a prisoner of war in
After the war, Mr. Vonnegut married and worked as a reporter in Chicago before moving his family to Schenectady, N.Y., and then to Cape Cod, in Massachusetts. In 1970, Mr. Vonnegut moved to
Although he never lived in
“The Vonnegut name resonates with so many different people,” said Chris Gahl, a spokesman for the
The library will include a replica of his writing studio and rejection letters (among the boxfuls he received) from magazines showing that he did not have an easy time of it. One editor said he did not have time to work with Mr. Vonnegut because he was not as talented as other writers.
Perhaps most mysterious is the unopened letter Mr. Vonnegut’s father sent him while the writer was overseas. “Knowing my father, it was more just to keep the potential and the mystery,” said Mark Vonnegut, the author’s son, musing about the decision not to open it.
The library fits into plans by
A new cultural trail through downtown is being built in advance of the city’s hosting the Super Bowl in 2012. The library, which sits near the trail, is already drawing out-of-town visitors like Julie Pagano, 25, a computer engineer from
Mark Vonnegut is on the library’s board, but Mr. Vonnegut’s widow, the author and photographer Jill Krementz, told the board she did not want to be involved.
Mr. Vonnegut often used
“He invites you right in. ‘Come in and have a cigarette, have a cup of coffee,’ ” he said. “But then you suddenly start talking about Kafka and cosmic time and aliens and politics and
Mr. Vonnegut may have had a fondness for his hometown, but that did not mean it was immune from his biting humor. In “Breakfast of Champions,” the science fiction writer Kilgore Trout visits
So it goes.
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs