Past masters: Kurt VonnegutPosted: April 6, 2012 Filed under: Past masters | Tags: books, heroes, integrity 5 Comments
From the Letters Of Note blog:
“In October of 1973, Bruce Severy — a 26-year-old English teacher at Drake High School, North Dakota — decided to use Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, as a teaching aid in his classroom. The next month, on November 7th, the head of the school board, Charles McCarthy, demanded that all 32 copies be burned in the school’s furnace as a result of its ‘obscene language.’ Other books soon met with the same fate. On the 16th of November, Kurt Vonnegut sent McCarthy the following letter. He didn’t receive a reply.”
I was a senior in high school that fall. This was my age group Severy was trying to introduce to Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse-Five. One of those “it-can’t-happen-here” moments.
I read Slaughterhouse- Five sometime soon after that year, I’m not sure if it was on my own or for my History of War class or in Science Fiction class, All I know for sure is Vonnegut became one of my heroes then and remains so even after his suicide. Suicide isn’t something I take lightly, but I’m sure Mr. Vonnegut had good reason for it and I wouldn’t want him suffering for any reason. We had our own book purgers and curriculum bashers, trying to get the influence of “secular humanism” out of the school. I couldn’t believe the ignorance then and it really floors me to know that ignorance is still being treasured and flourishes at the highest levels of or government and society. Like I said I don’t blame Mr Vonnegut at all.
I don’t believe Vonnegut committed suicide. What was reported is that he fell down a flight of stairs in his home and suffered massive head trauma. He used to speak out against suicide, but occasionally joked that he smoked cigarettes which he said was “a classy way to commit suicide.”
After I posted that I read that Vonnegut had attempted suicide in 1984. I hadn’t known that.
I think he had a real problem with the state of this world, I never knew just exactly how he died , but I had heard it was intentional on his part. He was also quite infirm I heard. He was a complex man and very real. I have also read Philip Jose Farmers “Venus on the Half Shell” originally published as written by Kilgore Trout, Vonnegut had apparently okayed the project but when it became popular he was disturbed by it, Farmer said he was sad he’d upset Mr Vonnegut, but it was never anything but a tribute and I can’t believe that anyone besides Vonnegut thought anything else…
Well I’m just a reader, but I do read a lot of disparate stuff. and i am pretty much a contemporary of you.