Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

GENRE
Fiction
AFFILIATION
Faculty
TIME IN IOWA CITY
1965 - 1967
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Place

Gail Godwin studied with Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving and others at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop


Location
Iowa Writers' Workshop (Dey House)
507 North Clinton Street, Iowa City, Iowa

Godwin arrives in Iowa City to study at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. There, taught by Kurt Vonnegut and José Donoso, building friendships with Jane Barnes, John Casey, David Plimpton, and John Irving, Gail Godwin finally achieves her dream—and a published novelist is born.

Godwin describes class with Vonnegut in her memoir Publishing: A Writers Memoir.:

“In [Vonnegut’s] workshop sessions, things always seemed a little looser, a little kinder, a little funnier. In May 1967 he would leave Iowa on a Guggenheim grant to do research in Dresden for Slaughterhouse-Five, his novel in progress, but all that spring I chugged along in creative bliss. A writer I had admired had given me the go-ahead. I wrote into the late night and early morning in my Iowa City rooms across the street from the jail…”


Godwin, Gail, and Rob Neufeld. The Making of a Writer. New York: Random House, 2011. Print.

Godwin, Gail. Publishing: A Writers Memoir. NY, NY: Bloomsbury, 2016. Print.

Place

Kurt Vonnegut’s Class


Location
Iowa Writers' Workshop (Dey House)
507 North Clinton Street, Iowa City, Iowa

Kurt Vonnegut’s workshop was very popular and well attended. From it, many notable authors emerged such as John Irving (‘The World According to Garp’), Gail Godwin (‘The Old Woman’), John Casey (‘An American Romance’), Nick Meyer (‘The Seven Percent Solution’).


Seems Like Old Times. Iowa Writers’ Workshop Golden Jubilee, editor Ed Dinger, U of Iowa Press: Iowa City, 1986.

Image

Kurt Vonnegut’s Literary Walk Plaque

The Kurt Vonnegut plaque on the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk reads: ‘We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.’


Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. Mother Night. Harper, 1966.

Image

Original Vonnegut Painting: James McPherson’s Office


Location
Iowa Writers' Workshop (Dey House)
507 North Clinton Street, Iowa City, Iowa

An original Vonnegut painting hangs in Jim McPherson’s office at the Workshop; in the inscription, Vonnegut calls Iowa City his “spiritual home.”


Ladd, Andrew. “Literary Boroughs #21: Iowa City, IA.” Ploughshares at Emerson College. WordPress, 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 21 May 2016.

Place

The Parties at the Vonnegut Mansion


Location
The Vonnegut Mansion
800 North Van Buren St.

During his time in Iowa City, Kurt Vonnegut lived at 800 North Van Buren St. — a Victorian brick mansion in the tree-lined Brown Street neighborhood of northside Iowa City. In this house, Vonnegut began his work on Slaughterhouse-Five. Of one party at the house, in honor of Saul Bellow, Maria Pilar Donoso wrote:

For this celebration in honor of such a distinguished writer, the guests would be a mix, not only professors but also students in Kurt’s classes, close friends, and the most talented participants in other classes or workshops. Thus, there were also whiskey, scotch or bourbon, so well liked by Americans, and gin and vermouth for dry martinis, fashionable drinks at that time. The Vonnegut house, shared with Eddie and Nannie, their teenage daughters, was not particularly elegant but it was spacious and warm, especially that night with the hidden, lighted fireplace in the great living room filled with lights and animated conversations. It seemed almost beautiful. Outside, light snow was falling, sprinkling the windows with white flakes….At the party Kurt assumed the assigned role of the host. He would mix and serve drinks in the living room corner, achieving control of his shyness in that way, that shyness that’s always with him; in front of the typewriter, in front of his friends and students, and at the bar in his house, with a straight drink of whiskey that he’d drink as if it were a prescribed medicine. […] Although Vonnegut is a very timid human being, the night of Saul Bellow’s party he was quite relaxed and animated. Perhaps this was because the guests were professors and students, everyday characters, who freed him of the tensions produced by meeting new people.


The World Come to Iowa: The Iowa International Anthology, 1987

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. His works, such as Cat’s Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973), blend satire, gallows humor, and science fiction. As a citizen, he was a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union and a pacifist intellectual, who often was critical of the society that he lived in. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association. On the verge of abandoning writing, Vonnegut was offered a teaching job at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. While he was there in the early 1960s, his novel Cat’s Cradle became a bestseller, and he began Slaughterhouse-Five. The latter novel is considered one of the best American novels of the twentieth century, appearing on the 100 best lists of Time magazine, and the Modern Library.

 

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