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Arts and Culture:
Kurt Vonnegut
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NOW's David Brancaccio interviews literary icon Kurt Vonnegut about his life and the current state of American democracy. With his classic wit, the legendary author of CAT'S CRADLE and SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE comments on how American democracy works and delivers some choice words for our parties, our system, and our president. Vonnegut's latest book, a collection of nonfiction entitled A MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY, is a bestseller.

Read an excerpt from A MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY

Kurt Vonnegut self portrait, ©Kurt Vonnegut, Seven Stories Press

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922, the son of a successful architect. After attending Cornell University, where he majored in chemistry and biology, he enlisted in the United States Army, serving in the Second World War and eventually being taken prisoner by the German Army. As a prisoner, Vonnegut survived the notorious bombing of Dresden which killed some 135,000 citizens. Vonnegut and fellow Allied POWs took shelter in an underground meat locker. This experience was to provide the basis for one of his most famous works, SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE.

Following the war, Vonnegut studied anthropology at the University of Chicago. Among Vonnegut's post-war occupations were crime reporter on a Chicago newspaper, publicist for the General Electric Corporation and SAAB car salesman. His first short story was published in 1950; his first novel, PLAYER PIANO, in 1952. Vonnegut's complete bibliography (see below) includes essays, plays, works for television and journalism. Vonnegut has also turned his hand to the graphic arts. His latest work, A MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY is filled with illustrations by the author.

Cover of CATS CRADE by Kurt Vonnegut

CNN noted recently that Kurt Vonnegut has "re-emerged" on the top of the best seller lists. THE MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY "has reached the top 10 on and Barnes &, and publisher Seven Stories Press has already more than doubled its first printing, from 50,000 copies to 110,000."

But praise from the public and the literary establishment is not new. British author Graham Greene called Vonnegut "one of the best living American writers." Find out more about Vonnegut's work, and his views on writing from the links below.

©Kurt Vonnegut, Seven Stories Press

In his appearance on NOW, Kurt Vonnegut gave his views on the contemporary state of American democracy:
We have only a one party government. It's the winners. And then everybody else is the losers. And the winners divided into two parties. The Republicans and the Democrats. What a charade the combat between the Republicans and the Democrats is. It's rich kids...We had to choose between two members of Skull and Bones!

Read more from Vonnegut on politics by using the links below, and talk back to him with our Quote of The Week.

Images courtesy of Seven Stories Press

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