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Remembering Kurt Vonnegut in Indianapolis

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The memory of Kurt Vonnegut is alive and well in Indianapolis, Indiana.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I tend to stick with mysteries in my leisure reading time. I should vary my reading diet and dip into nonfiction and literary fiction, but instead I tend to grab the latest best-selling mystery.

David Hoekman and Julia Whitehead, Kurt Vonnegut’s typewriter, Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, Indianapolis, Ind.

Photo: Group Tour Media David Hoekman and Julia Whitehead, Kurt Vonnegut’s typewriter, Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, Indianapolis, Ind.

A trip to Indianapolis, Indiana, for Visit Indiana’s 2017 Media Marketplace provided just the incentive to jolt me out of my mystery rut. Before the marketplace, Visit Indy arranged for me to visit the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library in downtown Indianapolis.

Founded in 2011, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library champions the legacy of Vonnegut and the principles of free expression, common decency and peaceful coexistence he advocated. Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922. According to the museum and library’s website, Vonnegut “took an unflinching look at the world, tempered with a satirical eye and sardonic sense of humor.”

During his 50-year career, Vonnegut published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays and five nonfiction works. His novel Slaughterhouse-Five is his most famous work.

Dave Hoekman with Kurt Vonnegut book and plush toy

Photo: Group Tour Media David Hoekman with Kurt Vonnegut book and plush toy

I visited the museum and library on April 11, which is the date Vonnegut died 10 years ago at the age of 84.

In a relatively small space, the museum and library nicely relates Vonnegut’s life and writing career, including rejection letters from editors. Also covered is Vonnegut’s visual artistry, which was a revelation to me. There’s a replica of his book-filled writing space, complete with a rooster lamp, open to the public. So I sat down, hunched over the coffee table holding a Smith-Corona electric typewriter and thought back to those pre-computer days when paper drafts were the tools of the writer’s trade.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, and Visit Indy have proclaimed 2017 as the Year of Vonnegut, with lots of programs taking place throughout the year.

Julia Whitehead, the museum’s founder and CEO, said Vonnegut’s writings are still relevant today and will be for years to come.

“His concern for people and their happiness was important, and he could incorporate that into his books in a way that touched and inspired readers,” Whitehead said. “His sense of humor, his great, clear writing style and his brilliant imagination are why his books are still being read. He was so much more than a writer. He was the conscience of multiple generations of people.”

The museum and library can customize a program for a group visit. Topics in the past have included Vonnegut’s military service, his interest in art, his popular culture status and his German-American roots.

“Kurt Vonnegut is easy to build a program around,” Whitehead said.

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About Author

David Hoekman, Managing Editor

David Hoekman is a former newspaperman on a quest to tell the stories of the world’s various places and cultures in compelling ways. He especially enjoys learning and writing about the business of group travel. His favorite destination is wherever he is going next and his travel tip is to always pack an emergency granola bar or two.

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