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Kurt Vonnegut's America

Jerome Klinkowitz

Publication Year: 2012

Kurt Vonnegut's death in 2007 marked the passing of a major force in American life and letters. Jerome Klinkowitz, one of the earliest and most prolific authorities on Vonnegut, examines the long dialogue between the author and American culture—a conversation that produced fourteen novels and hundreds of short stories and essays. Kurt Vonnegut's America integrates discussion of the fiction, essays, and lectures with personal exchanges and biographical sketches to map the complex symbiotic relationship between Vonnegut's work and the cultural context from which it emerged—and which it in turn helped shape. Following an introduction characterizing Vonnegut as Klinkowitz came to know him over the course of their friendship, this study charts the impact of Vonnegut on American society and of that society on Vonnegut for more than a half-century to illustrate how each informed the other. Among his artistic peers, Vonnegut was uniquely gifted at anticipating and articulating the changing course of American culture. Kurt Vonnegut's America shows us that Vonnegut achieved greatness by passing his own test—opening the eyes of his audience to help them better understand their roles and possibilities in the common culture they both shared and crafted.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5

Dedication Page

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pp. 6-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vi-viii

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pp. ix-x

Kurt Vonnegut’s America derives from what I was doing in the days following Kurt’s death. Knowing that he’d suffered irrecoverable brain injuries in a fall three weeks previous and, after all measures to help him failed, that he’d been taken off life support a few days before, I received the news with a sense of grim inevitability. ...

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Introduction - Vonnegut Released

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pp. 1-16

Kurt Vonnegut died late in the evening of April 11, 2007, at the age of eighty-four years and five months. Five months precisely—his birth date was November 11, 1922, Armistice Day, as it was called then, when there was only one world war to remember. It was a hallowed occasion throughout the 1920s and 1930s and into the 1940s, ...

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1 - Vonnegut’s 1950s: Human Structures

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pp. 17-39

Kurt Vonnegut’s debut as a writer of fiction came on February 11, 1950, when Collier’s, one of the great family oriented weekly magazines of the era, published his story “Report on the Barnhouse Effect.” But as the key date in his literary career, October 28, 1949, looms more important. ...

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2 - Vonnegut’s 1960s: Apocalypse Redone

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pp. 40-62

In the 1950s, a period of relative stability in America culture, Kurt Vonnegut had faced challenges by shoring up older values. Not sociopolitical ones, as conservative thinkers would have them, but anthropological foundations such as the family structure and benefits of a folk society where everyone had purposeful work and a sense of value. ...

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3 - Vonnegut’s 1970s: A Public Figure

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pp. 63-85

As the 1970s began, Kurt Vonnegut—for so long an unappreciated writer, struggling to publish when and where he could—found himself front and center everywhere. From best seller lists and magazine features to widely reported speeches and commencement addresses, the man and his opinions were sought by an eager public. ...

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4 - Vonnegut’s 1980s: Arts and Crafts

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pp. 86-104

The 1980s were easier for Kurt Vonnegut, and—in a material sense—for most Americans as well. The cultural conservativism of the Ronald Reagan years was an antidote to the turmoil of the 1960s and the political mess of the 1970s. Certain 1950s issues were also put to rest, including cold-war terrors, ...

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5 - Vonnegut’s 1990s: Autobiography and the Novel

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pp. 105-122

As a major American author still happy and healthy and writing for an appreciative readership in his seventies, Kurt Vonnegut spent the 1990s enjoying himself. There were still a few periods of depression, and even more of exhaustion; he’d often complain that he’d done a lifetime’s worth of work and was ready to go home. ...

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Conclusion - Vonnegut Uncaged

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pp. 123-134

Kurt Vonnegut had stayed active late in life because, in all humility, he felt his country needed him. Or at least that he could be of use, which we know was the cardinal value he believed human beings could possess. ...


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pp. 135-136


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pp. 137-142

E-ISBN-13: 9781611171150
Print-ISBN-13: 9781570039553

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 2012