There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library (KVML) thinks Vonnegut’s imagination is worth sharing with a new generation. That’s why, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the release of Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, we are undertaking one of the boldest programmatic efforts in our history.
We’re working with Penguin Random House, Indiana State Library, and other partners to give away to students copies of Slaughterhouse-Five, called one of the most influential books in the 20th Century. And beginning in February, we started our distribution of up to 86,000 copies, one each to every Indiana sophomore who wants to receive one. We are contacting each school and asking them to opt in for the free books. If schools choose not to opt in, we will work with Indiana public libraries to ensure that any high school sophomore who wants a copy will get a copy. If you are part of a high school and are eager to connect with us, please email Julia Whitehead at [email protected].
According to KVML CEO and Founder Julia Whitehead, “Slaughterhouse-Five is so important to me in my capacity as an arts educator because it’s not only an exciting fiction, but it’s also based, in part, on Vonnegut’s first-hand experiences as a soldier during World War II and as a prisoner of war under the control of the Nazis. Vonnegut carries the reader along with his humor and story-telling, but the factual details represented in the book help readers understand the war experience. What a brave soul Vonnegut was to share this story at a time when many people didn’t want to hear the truth about war. What a privilege it is to share this story through the generous giving of this book from our donors to our students.”
Whether or not you are a high school sophomore during this anniversary year, we encourage each of you to read or re-read Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. It makes a life-long impression on so many. Take, for instance, our friend and donor, Jim Lehrer, creator and long-time anchor of The Newshour on PBS. Here’s what he has to say about this book:
By the time I read Slaughterhouse-Five in 1969, I was already a rabid Kurt Vonnegut believer. His novels, Cat’s Cradle, Player Piano, and, my all-time favorite, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, had done that to me. In fact, as a just-discharged Marine in my first real job as a newspaper reporter in Texas, I was already planning my glorious fiction writer future as a Vonnegut-clone. I, too, would make people laugh so hard they cried and paid attention…
Then came Slaughterhouse-Five. Wow. And Wow. The World War II story of Billy Pilgrim and the firebombing of civilians in Dresden, Germany, blew me away. It was funny, yes, but it was a dark kind of funny to which I had never before been a worshipful party. It was particularly jarring because I knew enough about Vonnegut’s own life to realize that, in many ways, this was a dramatic “hear-this!” form of autobiography. That was underlined, of course, by the Vietnam anti-war climate of the moment.
I thought then that here was a book of death that would have a life that lasted forever.
And, I was right.
God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.
So search the bookshelves at home or at your public library for this monumental piece of literature and read it. Or, better yet, purchase a copy from our online bookstore here.
In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut said: “And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.”
If you read this book, either as an Indiana high school sophomore, a devoted Vonnegut fan, or someone who’s just curious, you might find the answers to this important, philosophical question. Enjoy the read in 2019!