Stress relief and an intellectual high: The Vonnegut Library Book Club

You know that “runner’s high” those crazy people who jog talk about getting, where they’re so involved in what they’re doing that they forget everything else?

That describes my first experience with the Vonnegut Library Book Club – Indianapolis Branch.

Dan Wakefield was the special guest in December. The group had read his newly published book, Kurt Vonnegut: Letters, and undoubtedly some had also long ago read his Going All the Way – which, Wakefield shared, his friend Vonnegut had renamed “Getting Laid in Indianapolis.”

It was that kind of meeting. Lots of laughs, lots of personal insight into Kurt Vonnegut’s character and life and personality. And no pretension whatsoever.

Wakefield – a funny, approachable, witty man – shared his frustration over the literary industry’s continued treatment of his friend as ‘just a science fiction writer’ whose time had come and has now gone. He read a recent letter of his own, written to the New York Times, expressing his dismay over the prevailing attitude that Vonnegut had “had his moment, that he was a counterculture figure, and now that the movement is over, so is Vonnegut. This ingrained attitude belies the reality, and it’s very disturbing to me,” Wakefield told us.

It was apparently disturbing and disheartening to Vonnegut, too. You can sense this through some of his letters, such as one to Knox Burger, his first agent.

Wakefield believes this attitude is why more media outlets haven’t reviewed Kurt Vonnegut: Letters. One outlet that did review the book is Publisher’s Weekly, which called it a “miraculous volume” that provides “a moving and revelatory portrait of the famed author” in which “casual readers will discover letters as splendid in their own way as those of Keats.”

Wow. (As a publicist and Wakefield fan, I encourage you to read and share this review on Facebook and Twitter!)

I also encourage those of you who are Vonnegut fans to talk about it, especially in social media and to your librarians and schools.

“All Vonnegut’s books are still in print, and people are still discovering him. It’s up to readers like us to keep talking about him,” Wakefield said. “We need a Vonnegut Library Book Club chapter in Manhattan.” (A chapter exists in Baltimore, thanks to Jane Wehrle.) We heard that someone is trying to get one started there, but a certain university wouldn’t give them the space to meet once a month! (Anyone in New York that can help, let the library know.)

Meanwhile, if you’re in Indianapolis or just want to follow along with our reading, come to a meeting and/or join us on Facebook. And wherever you are, keep reading and discussing and teaching Vonnegut! And let us know what you think: Facebook and Twitter.

P.S. Other reviews of Kurt Vonnegut: Letters

Newsday

A.V. Club

The Washington Post

Barnes & Noble

The Nation

New York Times (Wakefield found this one condescending)

P.S.S. The book club meets at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library on the fourth Tuesday of every month (check the dates for November and December, since they fall on or near a holiday). Please join us!

 

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Jay

    Hi Cindy,
    Great report on the meeting. I haven’t missed a meeting in a long time and it looks like I picked the wrong one to miss… 🙂

    I wanted to share also that Dave Young posts his often humorous “minutes” to our meetings at http://vonnegutbookclub.wordpress.com/

    Those from yesterday aren’t up yet, but summaries of prior meetings are available.

    -Jay

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