by Mike Ahern
INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 7, 2015) -- At the intersection where Senate Avenue and Indiana Avenue meet Vermont Street, you'll find a brick building. Well, not just any building. Open the door and you'll find yourself, unstuck from time, inside the extraordinary world of Kurt Vonnegut.
The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library opened five years ago to honor one of Indianapolis' most beloved, sometimes controversial, and always entertaining authors. It was also its most prolific. Vonnegut wrote 14 novels, 5 plays, and untold short stories in his 84 years.
Library curator Chris Lafave says it's no accident that his hometown play a major role in many of those works, "the fact that it morphed its way into everything he ever wrote, really tells me something about his experiences in Indianapolis."
Vonnegut has been characterized as a darkly humorous social critic, a science fiction writer who deals with the harsh truths of life with biting satire, and a post modernist...whatever that means. What we do know is that he was, as one writer put it, a frustrated idealist. He treated the absurdities of life with humor and kindness.
"Vonnegut writes a great line in there about how people claim to love each other when they fight should always scream a little bit less love and a little more common decency," Lafave says. "I think that really sums up a lot of the ways that he looked at the world. He was very forgiving of people's flaws. Even though he would have a biting tone, those jokes were meant to soften the landing."
Vonnegut's books are everywhere of course, but here you will also find his Smith-Corona typewriter, a sword he liberated from a German Soldier in World War II, a digital timeline of his books created by Ball State students, and a replica of his writing space, complete with jazz music in the background.
Eight years after his death, Vonnegut remains immensely popular with young people. Lafave believes it was because of his ability to use dark humor, "You're talking about war. You're talking about political problems. He was a very serious author, but for some reason he had this huge audience of 14 to 18 year old people and beyond." Lafave says it even continues today.
For all its popularity, Vonnegut's classic novel, "Slaughterhouse Five" was banned in some quarters. Naturally, the library will hose Banned Books Week from September 27 through October 3.
As Kurt himself would say, "so it goes."