Written for an English class. Enjoy ...

Born on November 11th, 1922 to a well-to-do family in Indianapolis, Indiana, Kurt Vonnegut Junior was born to an architect struggling to support a family faced with hard times along with the rest of the nation during the Great Depression. Kurt's first writing experience was as editor and columnist for his high school newspaper. After graduating high school in 1940, he studied biology and chemistry at Cornell University from 1940 to 1942. However, science proved not to be Vonnegut's strong point, and he left before his poor grades could force him out.

Kurt enlisted in the army in 1943 and was promptly sent to study engineering at Carnegie Technical Institute and later the University of Tennessee. His mother committed suicide in May of 1944, and later that year he was transferred to the war in Europe and the Germans captured him in the Battle of the Bulge. Vonnegut was held with other POWs in Dresden, an ancient, beautiful city with no real military significance or industrial production. Despite this, the RAF firebombed it on February 13th of 1945, killing 135,000 civilians. (Correction: Sakke informs me that the firebombing of Dresden was improperly documented and, as near as anyone can tell, the death toll was really somewhere between 35,000 and 135,000 civilians.) Vonnegut and the other prisoners were in a meat locker under the slaughterhouse the Germans had converted into barracks for their captured enemies, and as such they survived. His experience under friendly bombs lent him a poignant view into human stupidity and provided the basis for his most critically acclaimed novel, Slaughterhouse-Five.

In May he was repatriated and married childhood friend Jane Marie Cox later that year. He enrolled at Chicago University and received rejection after rejection for his MA thesis on anthropology over the next year while working as a reporter for the Chicago City News Bureau. He left the University without a degree and moved to Schenectady, New York, in 1947 to work as a publicist for General Electric. At the time his brother Bernard was also working for the company as a scientist. His time at GE gave him the insight into corporate culture needed to write Player Piano. During his time at GE he was blessed with a son named Mark and later a daughter, Edith. He left GE in 1951 and moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts to become exclusively a freelance writer, although he attempted a few other jobs to boost family income. His second daughter, Nanette, was born three years later.

Vonnegut went on to continue writing, picking up three of his sister's children along the way when their father died in a train crash and their mother died of cancer within a day of his death. He also picked up his MA in anthropology "around 1973 or so," as he puts it, for writing Cat's Cradle, thanks to a rule that the University of Chicago has about a high-quality written work being substituted for a dissertation. In 1976 he published Slapstick, a book which was not accepted by the literary community but was important to Vonnegut because he published that book under the name "Kurt Vonnegut" - not "Kurt Vonnegut, Jr." This move was indicative of his feelings towards his father; apraetor tipped me off as to this move and informs me that true to his ironic and cynical style he removed the "Jr" because he felt he had become just like his dad. Almost losing his life to a suicide attempt in 1983 using pills and alcohol made him decide to continue stumbling along with the rest of humanity; he points to his failure as the primary and possibly sole reason for doing so. He has completed and published a total of fourteen novels so far, claiming Timequake from 1997 as his last, as well as three collections and "uncollections" of short stories in addition to numerous essays, articles and other writings. He has been writing for more than fifty straight years and has publicly given up the novel-writing game. His experiences with war, with people, and with death have lent him a nigh-bottomless ocean of irony and bitterly irreverent social commentary from which to draw books, essays and stories. Like his compatriots throughout written history all the way back to the first one to write "Thag was here" in berry paint drawings on a cave wall, Kurt Vonnegut has proven that, like people, a healthy society needs to be able to laugh at itself -- and has provided a way for them to do so.

Work Cited
Saxon, Wolfgang. "Bernard Vonnegut, 82, physicist who coaxed rain from the sky," NY Times, 27 April 1997.


Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd Ed. Vol. 16., p25-26. Ed. Byers, Paula K. 1998; Detroit, MI.


Science Fiction Writers, "Kurt Vonnegut." Ed. E.F. Bleiler. Charles Scribner's Sons; 1982.



http://www.forbes.com/asap/1999/0531/086_print.html. Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. "Think Bank." "Forbes," May 1999.

http://www.wdog.com/rider/writings/KVJ_soitgoes.htm. Roder, Shawn. "Kurt Vonnegut Jr.: So it goes." 1999.
Many thanks and much love to apraetor and sakke for contributing to this writeup!