Kurt Vonnegut’s In These Times Opus

BY Joel Bleifuss

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On November 11, In These Times Senior Editor Kurt Vonnegut will turn 83. Here at the magazine we raise our glasses.

He was 29 when he published his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952. Since then he has written 13 others, including Slaughterhouse Five, which stands as one of the pre-eminent anti-war novels of the 20th century and was his first best seller. His most recent best seller is A Man Without A Country, a work of nonfiction that came out in September, published by Seven Stories Press in New York. Portions of the book originally appeared in In These Times.

Below, we provide the links to some of the articles Kurt has written for the magazine, including an interview I did with him in January 2003, as the war against Iraq loomed. That interview became the most popular story at inthesetimes.com and was translated and reprinted in Aftonbladet, Sweden’s largest daily newspaper, and La Jornada, Mexico’s most respected daily newspaper.

Look for Kurt’s next contribution to In These Times in the issue that hits newsstands in December.

Kurt Vonnegut vs. the !&#*!@

You have lived through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Reagan wars, Desert Storm, the Balkan wars and now this coming war in Iraq. What has changed, and what has remained the same?

One thing which has not changed is that none of us, no matter what continent or island or ice cap, asked to be born in the first place, and that even somebody as old as I am, which is 80, only just got here. …

January 27, 2003

Dear Mr. Vonnegut,

In light of the overwhelming response to “Kurt Vonnegut vs. !&#*@,” Vonnegut has agreed, on an occasional basis, to entertain readers’ questions.

Dear Mr. Vonnegut,

What genuinely motivates al-Qaeda to kill and self-destruct? The president says, “They hate our freedoms–our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other,” which surely is not what has been learned from the captives being held in Guantanamo, or what he is told in his briefings. Why do the communications industry and our elected politicians allow Bush to get away with such nonsense? …

February 28, 2003

Dear Mr. Vonnegut,

What on earth happened to American journalists so that they let fanatics toy with them?

–Andrés Hoyos, Bogota, Colombia

Dear Andrés,

They became rich and famous.

Kurt

What words of hope and encouragement do you offer your daughter that other parents might borrow?

–Sharon Tiplady, Palmer, Alaska

Dear Sharon,

“Know…

March 24, 2003

Dear Mr. Vonnegut,

The other day I was asked to do the now common act of taking off my shoes at the airport security screening. As I deposited my shoes in the tray, a sense of utter absurdity washed over me. I have to take my shoes off and have them scanned by an…

April 14, 2003

Strange Weather Lately

The following is adapted from a Clemens Lecture presented in April for the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut.

First things first: I want it clearly understood that this mustache I’m wearing is my father’s mustache. I should have brought his photograph. My big brother Bernie, now dead, a physical…

May 09, 2003

Knowing What’s Nice

Author’s note: I’m working on a novel, If God Were Alive Today, about a fictitious man, Gil Berman, 36 years my junior, who cracks jokes or whatever in front of college audiences from time to time, something I myself have done. Here are excerpts from some of what I myself said…

November 06, 2003

State of the Asylum

Editor’s note: On the afternoon of Tuesday, January 20, In These Times received a fax: ON ORANGE ALERT HERE. ECONIMIC (SIC) TERRORIST ATTACK EXPECTED AT 8 PM EST. –KV

Worried, we called Kurt Vonnegut. What did he know?! He said he would tell us when he had more complete information. The next…

February 05, 2004

False Advertising

I recently gave a speech in Cleveland. I feel so safe there. The bi-partisanship of Neocons working in perfect harmony with the Christian Right has made this city so safe that Cleveland’s mayor is actually laying off police persons and fire fighters. There can only be one word for a community…

March 24, 2004

Cold Turkey

Many years ago, I was so innocent I still considered it possible that we could become the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation used to dream of. We dreamed of such an America during the Great Depression, when there were no jobs. And then we fought and…

May 10, 2004

I Love You, Madame Librarian

I, like probably most of you, have seen Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Its title is a parody of the title of Ray Bradbury’s great science fiction novel, Fahrenheit 451. This temperature, 451° Fahrenheit, is the combustion point, incidentally, of paper, of which books are composed. The hero …

August 06, 2004

Requiem for a Dreamer

Editor’s note: What follows is a conversation between Kurt Vonnegut and out-of-print science fiction writer Kilgore Trout. It was to be their last. Trout committed suicide by drinking Drano at midnight on October 15 in Cohoes, New York, after a female psychic using tarot cards predicted that …

October 15, 2004

The End is Near

I am writing this before the election, so I cannot know whether George W. Bush or John F. Kerry will be our President, God willing, for the next four years. These two Nordic, aristocratic multi-millionaires are virtually twins, and as unlike most of the rest of us as a couple of…

October 29, 2004

Have I Got a Car for You!

I used to be the owner and manager of an automobile dealership in West Barnstable, Massachusetts, called “Saab Cape Cod.” It and I went out of business 33 years ago. The Saab then as now was a Swedish car, and I now believe my failure as a …

November 24, 2004

American Christmas Card 2004

Editor’s note: As a special holiday treat for its readers, In These Times asked Kurt Vonnegut for his thoughts on the holidays. Here’s what he wrote:

I met a man in Nigeria years ago, an Ibo, who said he had three hundred relatives…

December 23, 2004

In memorium: Susan Sontag and Arthur Miller

Dr. Marc Leeds, PhD, an English teacher and old friend of mine, albeit 30 years my junior, recently asked me what he might say to his students about the writers Arthur Miller and Susan Sontag, both of whom had died very recently, both friends of mine. I said that the fact…

March 03, 2005

Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.

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