The Good News about Mitch Daniels & Howard Zinn

by Meghan Barich on July 23, 2014

banned-buttonOne year after emails from former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels attempting to “keep kids from reading Howard Zinn” revealed the living truth that censorship and banned books still persist in our country, good news prevails. It started conversations. It put people into action. It shined a light on the untiring need to protect our First Amendment Rights.

As The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library prepares for Banned Books Week in September, we’ve been thinking a lot about the events, emails and dialogue generated by the unfortunate display of censorship in our own Indiana backyard. We’re inspired by the people who stood up and spoke out against the now Purdue University president’s attempt to ban Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

Here’s the good news about Mitch Daniels & Howard Zinn:

  • The American Historical Association, a nonpartisan group that sets academic standards of review and publication for historians nationwide issued a statement saying it “deplores the spirit and intent” of Daniels’ emails and considers the emails “inappropriate and a violation of academic freedom.”
  • Over 100 people filled a Purdue University lecture hall in November of last year to read and celebrate controversial written works like George Orwell’s 1984 and of course, Zinn’s A People’s History of the Untied States. Professors, students, and activists joined together for what they called a “read-in.”
  • Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) hosted a Howard Zinn Day last fall at which Vonnegut Library Executive Director Julia Whitehead and others spoke about Zinn and the importance of free speech.
  • A flurry of conversations commenced through social media channels. People exercised their Freedom of Speech, whether it was in opposition or support of Daniels. And that’s the spirit the works of authors like Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury and Zinn intended: bring controversial topics into the light and create meaningful conversations for decency.

Mitch Daniels is a highly educated man with success and influence in business, politics and academics. If censorship and threats of banned books still exist amongst his echelon, they certainly exist throughout the fabric of this nation. We saw this here in Indiana with one school district attempting to ban books, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five included, from an optional supplementary reading list. Fortunately, in this case, public comments were heard and no books were banned.

Our library continues Kurt Vonnegut’s fight against censorship and supports language and visual arts education through programs and outreach activities like Banned Books Week. To join us in this fight, consider becoming a member, making a donation or join the conversations taking place on Facebook and Twitter.


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.