Archived Story

Vonnegut gave Dogwood a solid start

Published 7:47pm Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Every Dogwood Fine Arts Festival since the first one in 1993 has been anti-climactic.
That’s because the first visiting author happened to be humanist Kurt Vonnegut Jr., my literary John Lennon.
Some others worthy of chiseling on Mount Writemore followed – John Updike, Joseph Heller, Norman Mailer – but I only succumbed to blatant hero worship with Vonnegut.
He autographed “Slaughterhouse-Five,” his 1969 science fiction anti-war novel inspired by his capture by the Nazis and Feb. 13, 1945, survival of the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, which rendered him a Purple-Hearted pacifist.
There was a sense of urgency in bringing him to Dowagiac because how long could he last coughing from smoking constantly?
(“A fire at one end and a fool at the other.”)
He lasted until April 11, 2007.
When I interviewed him, Vonnegut was writing “Timequake,” which did not exactly become the book we discussed. He lectured me against cynicism!
Eager for college life, I devoted the summer of 1975 to reading a Chicago Tribune list of essential campus books, including “Slaughterhouse-Five” and 1973’s “Breakfast of Champions,” his self-indulgent, plotless 50th birthday present to himself.

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