The reviewer was wrong

by cindy.dashnaw on February 17, 2014

The Boston Globe gave the play Kurt Vonnegut’s Make Up Your Mind a terrible review. I was at a performance, and I think the reviewer—and much of the audience—missed the joke.

Playwright Nicky Silver created the script using four or five of Vonnegut’s many drafts (with permission from the Vonnegut estate). IMG_2864The theater then set the stage by greeting the audience as they entered with ’80s pop music—Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf, Prince’s Kiss and the like—and a set covered in Vonnegut-like drawings. The combination set a mood unlike any other that I’ve experienced pre-play.

The play follows Roland Stackhouse, a former telephone installer who poses as a therapist to help indecisive people make up their minds. Clients of Roland’s business, Make Up Your Mind Inc., are urged to stick to their decisions by an enforcer who will thrash them if they falter.

In typical Vonnegut fashion, the characters are often a mockery of themselves, but the audience can still empathize with them. Like Breakfast of Champions, the story reminds us that human life is sacred.

Vonnegut himself appears on stage to comment on the play’s action. Silver took most of the lines the character speaks directly from Vonnegut’s essays, so his words sound just right. Here the play fell a little short for me; although the character was smoking one of Vonnegut’s characteristic Paul Malls, his mannerisms seemed off. Maybe, though, this was because I’ve mostly seen Vonnegut seated, not standing, in interviews.

The play itself, however, was vintage Vonnegut. His signature black humor and wit permeated the dialogue. Yet, perhaps because it was a live performance, the cleverness seemed lost on much of the audience.

I often found myself the only one laughing aloud.

Perhaps the Globe reviewer and many in the audience had never read Vonnegut. It may be because I’m a bit of a wacko, but I think Vonnegut’s witty satire is easier to comprehend in print. The reviewer wrote that the play “leaves the audience with a sour feeling that the joke is on them.”

It’s too bad the reviewer missed the joke. Or perhaps this is just another case of misunderstanding Vonnegut or not appreciating his particular brand of humor.

After all, if you’re looking for “high culture,” you won’t find it with Vonnegut.

However, if you’re a Vonnegut fan looking to enjoy his signature voice, you’ll appreciate Kurt Vonnegut’s Make Up Your Mind.

That is, if it ever runs again.


IMG_2878Nicole Lowman doesn’t intend to offend you, but she probably will. Her perverse fiction, poetry and personal essay have been published by various small presses. She is pursuing a Master of Arts in English at Southern Connecticut State University. You can hear more of her ramblings on her blog and her website.


Vonnegut transformed: A year of inspiration

by cindy.dashnaw on January 17, 2014

VanKirk-tic-web copy
A year ago, San Antonio artist Rikkianne Van Kirk set a goal: to read each of Vonnegut’s novels. That project inspired another one – one that’s coming to Indianapolis and the Vonnegut Library this month.

Just a few pages into the first book, Van Kirk began creating images in her head from Vonnegut’s prose. A Vonnegut novel became her constant companion … along with a black Sharpie for her illustrations.

Read her blog post about this creative process, and plan to see her work on Jan. 25 during our Third Anniversary & Civil Rights event.


2013: The Vonnegut Library’s Year in Review

by cindy.dashnaw on January 5, 2014

2013 was great for us! Here are just the highlights:

JanuaryAnneliese Krauter and other German-Americans told us what it was like to be held in a U.S. internment camp with their families during World War II.

MMuncy2February – After turning 18 in basic training and 21 in Iraq, after drug addiction and a suicide attempt, Malachi Muncy (right) discovered writing and art.

March – Julia Whitehead, executive director, was invited to participate in the 2nd National Summit: Arts, Health and Wellbeing Across the Military.

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune, from Night of Vonnegut 2013

April – Night of Vonnegut featured nationally known author and Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page (left) … and a special video speech by President Bill Clinton.

SeptemberTim Youd (lower right)performed and typed Breakfast of Champions in its entirety on a Smith Corona typewriter. Indianapolis writer Hugh Vandivier got “locked up with Vonnegut” for Banned Books Week 2013. Political figures, actors, writers and more read from banned books.

©2013 Tim Youd

©2013 Tim Youd

October – Local artists reimagined the covers of banned books. Their creations were sold by silent auction, with proceeds going to the artist and the Vonnegut Library.


November – The first-ever VonnegutFest was a big hit! A variety of venues partnered with us to celebrate Indiana’s favorite Hoosier author. Tim O’Brien (left) took part in a  Veterans Reclaim Armistice Day panel, Mark Vonnegut and comedian Gary Gulman did Google Hangouts, and much, much more.

2014 is off to a great start already. Don’t miss a minute of it!







We will miss your common decency, Andy Jacobs

by cindy.dashnaw on December 28, 2013

by Julia Whitehead, executive director
Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

Andy Jacobs PhotoKurt Vonnegut often wrote about common decency and the need for it in our relationships, our communities and our nations. When I think of the people I have encountered in life who exhibit a great deal of common decency, many faces come to mind … people I have known and those I wish I could know.

One of these people who I was privileged to know is Andy Jacobs.

Andy was a husband, a father, a friend to many. Andy was a Marine and a Korean War veteran, the kind who had seen great horrors and came home with the wisdom and courage to stand up to any chickenhawk politician who wanted to put our troops in harm’s way.

Andy was a servant to the public as Indiana’s Congressman for many, many years. But Andy was a different kind of servant, one that I have difficulty explaining because I wouldn’t call it religious, yet his words and actions caused people to think about things ethically, thoughtfully, progressively and compassionately.

How many of us will be so relevant to our dying day?

(I could joke about the relevance of many of us now, but that wouldn’t show much common decency on my part, would it?)

Andy remained relevant through his dying breath. He will be relevant for years to come. And I feel so grateful to have gotten to know him. I feel grateful that he came into the Vonnegut Library and befriended us. I feel grateful that he claimed us enough to become one of our Honorary Board Members.

But mostly, I feel grateful to have known someone of such greatness who also had such an abundance of common decency.


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OBrienBook“I carry the memories of the ghosts of a place called Vietnam — the people of Vietnam, my fellow soldiers,” Tim O’Brien told NPR . “More importantly, I carry the weight of responsibility, and a sense of abiding guilt.”

O’Brien will be a featured guest at Veterans Reclaim Armistice Day, an event during VonnegutFest on Nov. 9. To prepare,  join the Indy branch of the Vonnegut Library Book Club to read and discuss O’Brien’s awe-inspiring book, The Things They Carried, at 11:30 a.m. at the Vonnegut Library on Thursday, Oct. 24. (The library doesn’t open until noon, so please enter through the main Katz & Korin glass doors.)

Everyone is welcome! Questions? Email




Fifty shades of Vonnegut

by cindy.dashnaw on October 14, 2013

by Nicole Lowman

Amazon recently started Kindle Worlds,which allows anyone to write and publish fan fiction inspired by famous fictional worlds, one being “The World of Kurt Vonnegut.” In August, Amazon secured the license from RosettaBooks. Fans can now self-publish anything related to Vonnegut’s fictional worlds, with minimal guidelines that are mainly related to profanity and copyright infringement.

The review process prior to publication is also meager. Works are merely reviewed for “reader experience” (aka formatting issues). There is no mention of accessing content or story line, and authors are to edit themselves.


Kindle Worlds does not
change any manuscripts. Any typos, misspellings or grammatical errors are the
responsibility of the author.

Kindle Worlds will set the price of each work, generally between $.99 and $3.99. For works of more than 10,000 words, the standard royalty rate paid to authors is 35%. For works between 5,000 and 9,999 words, Amazon will pay authors 20% of net revenue for his or her work.

An LA Times article says, “The addition of Vonnegut adds a veneer of prestige to
the site,” which otherwise offers only worlds of comic books and and novels-turned-primetime-television-dramas.

While it’s semi-reassuring to hear the media say that Vonnegut provides a thin coating of credibility to Amazon’s venture, I believe it ultimately discredits him as a serious author. The most well-known fan fiction of the day is Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the world of the Twilight series.

I sincerely doubt Vonnegut would appreciate being in such a group.



Nicole Lowman doesn’t intend to offend you, but she probably will. Her perverse fiction, poetry and personal essay have been published by various small presses. She is pursuing a Master of Arts in English at Southern Connecticut State University. You can hear more of her ramblings on her blog and her website.



Hugh’s last moon dance for Banned Books Week

by cindy.dashnaw on September 27, 2013

by Hugh Vandivier

Hey, Daddy-O, focus your audio for a stretch. It’s my last moon dance being jungled up in the V, and I get sprung manana, so we’re formulating a gi-tastic beatnik hootenanny. Hop in your lead sled or hoof it on over to mingle with Mingus. No hassle if you don’t represent in the standard beat uniform.

music-doublebassplayerHepcat and pigment spiller Aric Harris will slap the upright and board treader Constance Macy will recitate some ‘Sberg truth before we oculate the flick “Howl.”


Noodle it out and materialize at 6 tonight. It’ll be better than a zonk in the head.

TRANSLATION FOR SQUARES: Hello, person I know in cordial terms, listen up. It is my last night with specific living arrangements in the V, and I am being released tomorrow, so we are hosting a big, not-to-be-believed “beatnik” party. Drive in your car or walk over and listen to some jazz. You don’t have to wear a beret and black shirt.

Musician and artist Aric Harris (Where the Wild Things Are in our Banned Books Recovered art show) will be playing stand-up bass, and actress Constance Macy will read Allen Ginsberg poetry before we watch the movie Howl.


Think it over and show up tonight at 6. It will be better than a bad thing.


Missive from the Monkey House, Day 3

by Shannon on September 25, 2013

Our favorite captive Hugh Vandivier makes the time pass faster by blogging from his book prison.

In an effort to make Banned Books Week multi-faceted, I wrote up a pub quiz.

Each Tuesday at the Broad Ripple Brewpub, my team, dubbed The Black Friars, competes with other teams in a test of knowledge. Quizmaster Billy (Hannan), the GM, asks the questions, and teams of up to six write down the answers on sheets.

This week, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t participate, so I thought I’d write one up with censorship as the theme. Quizmaster Billy answered only 11 correctly, which meant I devised a good stumper.

So, just for fun, here’s my quiz. No fair opening up a tab and Googling answers!

Film Censorship

1. The “Czar of Hollywood” through the ‘20s and ‘30s, this Hoosier is known for the production code that bears his name.

2. In 2009, the Welsh town of Aberystwyth finally lifted its 30-year ban of what film by an irreverent British comedy troupe, probably because the mayor actually appeared in the comedy.

3. The 2001 Ben Stiller comedy Zoolander was banned in this country because of the movie’s plot involving assassination of the country’s prime minister to preserve cheap garment labor.

4. Not surprisingly, this 2006 mockumentary has been banned in Kazakhstan.


Banned Children’s Books

1. Published in 1926 and in animated Disney feature films in 1977 and 2011, this classic has been banned in the United States for talking animals considered an “insult to God” and in Turkey and the UK because the sidekick is offensive to Muslims.

2. Largely known for his children’s books, this author was the leading cartoonist for Playboy, and penned both the Dr. Hook hit “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” and Johnny Cash’s hit “A Boy Named Sue.”

3. The 1964 novel Harriet the Spy has been banned for being “a bad example for children.” It was also challenged for teaching “children to lie, spy, talk back, and curse.” Who wrote it?

4. These books are frequently banned for their toilet humor and irreverent attitude. The title character is a superhero devised by two 4th graders about their grouchy principal, Mr. Krupp.


The First Amendment

1. Uttered in the 1964 U.S. Supreme Court case of Jacobellis v. Ohio, which justice said, “I know it when I see it” to describe his threshold test for obscenity?

2. In 1978, this comedian’s most famous routine served as a U.S. Supreme Court case, FCC V. Pacifica Foundation, where the court ruled, among other things, that act was “indecent but not obscene.”

3. In the landmark 1919 Schenck v. United States case, which U.S. Supreme Court justice asserted that “…free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”

4. In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the New York Times Company over the United States in the “Pentagon Papers,” leaked by what U.S. military analyst employed by the RAND Corporation?


Recently Banned Books

1. Last year, the school district of Republic, Missouri, banned this 1969 novel by Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut, prompting the Vonnegut Memorial Library to send families in that district free copies.

2. In May 2013, this WWII-era book, first published in English in 1952, was the target of a Michigan mom who tried to get it banned due to its “pornographic tendencies.”

3. In 2012, a Tennessee school district banned Looking for Alaska by this local young adult author for offensive language and for being sexually explicit.

4. Just last week, Randolph County, N.C. is reconsidering a recent ban on the 1952 novel that focuses on black identity in the first half of the 20th century. The board chair rejected the book as a “hard read,” and another member stated he couldn’t “find any literary value” in it.


Challenged Music

1. In 1956, ABC radio made this Hoosier songwriter change the lyrics of this Frank Sinatra hit to “I get perfume from Spain”? (We need the correct songwriter and song.)

2. Indiana Governor Matt Welsh tried to have this song by this group banned because of perceived obscene lyrics, which were largely unintelligible. The first verse actually says, “A fine little girl waits for me; / Me catch a ship across the sea. / I sail that ship all alone; / I never think I’ll make it home.” (We need the correct song title and group.)

3. In 1970, the BBC pulled the Kink’s hit “Lola” until Ray Davies changed what one word in the lyrics?

4. Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Clear Channel Communications sent a memo to its more than 1,200 radio stations and flagged 165 “lyrically questionable” songs. This band, whose last album was Renegades in 2000, was the only artist who had all their songs flagged.


How did you do? Two teams tied at 15, including my Friars, who did not have any prior knowledge of even the hint of questions or categories. They lost in a tiebreaker. It may be just as well: We’re kind of like the NY Yankees of trivia.

The Friars did win a prize for best team name, which I’m told was Who the *#@! is Hugh Vandivier?

–Hugh Vandivier