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Kurt Vonnegut biography

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Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut

How to pronounce Kurt Vonnegut: kert VAHN-uh-guht

Kurt Vonnegut Biography

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on November 11, 1922. He studied biochemistry at Cornell University (1940–2) before attending the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1943.  He served in the US Army from 1942-1945.  As an advance scout with the US 106th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge, Vonnegut was cut off from his battalion behind enemy lines and was eventually captured in December 1944 and held as a prisoner of war.  He was held in Dresden where he witnessed the February 1945 bombings that destroyed much of the city.  He was one of just seven American prisoners of war in Dresden to survive, in an underground meatpacking cellar known as "Slaughterhouse Five".  This experience formed the basis for his most famous work, Slaughterhouse-Five and is a theme in a number of his other books.

After the war he attended the University of Chicago (1945–7; 1971) where he specialized in anthropology.  He was a police reporter in Chicago (1947), worked for General Electric Co's public relations (1947–50), and taught at many institutions. He eventually settled in New York City, and produced a steady stream of novels, short stories, non-fiction works, and plays. His first books were in the science-fiction genre but his work shifted to social satire with Cat's Cradle (1963). He is best known for his irony, wild inventive humor, and themes such as the uneasy balance between technology and humanity.

He married his childhood sweetheart, Jane Marie Cox, shortly after World War II, but they separated in 1970 and divorced in 1979, after which he married Jill Krementz.  He had seven children in all; three with his first wife; he adopted his sister Alice's three children in 1958 when her husband died in a commuter train accident two days before she died of cancer; and adopted Lily in 1982. 

He suffered smoke inhalation and was hospitalized in critical condition for four days in 2000 when a fire destroyed the top story of his home.  He survived but his personal archives were destroyed. He died in Manhattan at the age of 84 on April 11, 2007 from injuries sustained in a fall some weeks earlier. 


Partial Bibliography

Novels

  • Player Piano (1952) aka Utopia 14
  • The Sirens of Titan (1959)
  • Cat's Cradle (1960)
  • Canary in a Cat House (1961)
  • Mother Night (1961)
  • God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)
  • Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)
  • Breakfast of Champions (1973)
  • Venus on the Half-Shell (1975) (under the pseudonym Kilgore Trout)
  • Slapstick: or Lonesome No More! (1976)
  • Deadeye Dick (1982)
  • Jailbird (1983)
  • Galapagos (1985)
  • Bluebeard (1987)
  • Between Time and Timbuktu: Or Prometheus-5 a Space Fantasy (1990)
  • Hocus Pocus (1990)
  • Timequake (1997)

Collections

  • Welcome to the Monkey House (1968)
  • Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (1976)
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Collection (1995)

Other

  • Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1970, play)
  • Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons (1974, nonfiction)
  • Opinions (1975, nonfiction)
  • Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage (1981, nonfiction)
  • Fates Worse than Death: An Autobiographical Collage (1983, nonfiction)
  • God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian (1999, nonfiction)
  • Like Shaking Hands with God: A Conversation about Writing (1999, nonfiction)
  • A Man Without a Country (2005, nonfiction)

Kurt Vonnegut's website

This bio was last updated on 03/24/2008. In a perfect world, we would like to keep all of BookBrowse's biographies up to date, but with many thousands of lives to keep track of it's simply impossible to do. So, if the date of this bio is not recent, you may wish to do an internet search for a more current source, such as the author's website or social media presence. If you are the author or publisher and would like us to update this biography, send the complete text and we will replace the old with the new.

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Books by this Author

Books by Kurt Vonnegut at BookBrowse
While Mortals Sleep jacket Look at the Birdie jacket Armageddon in Retrospect jacket Bagombo Snuff Box jacket
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Read-Alikes

All the books below are recommended as read-alikes for Kurt Vonnegut but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose read-alikes

  • Jasper Fforde

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    Jasper Fforde was born in London on January 11, 1961. His father was a prominent economist, while his mother did charity work and was a passionate reader. Fforde and his four siblings were raised in London and Wales. At the ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Bagombo Snuff Box

    Try:
    Shades of Grey
    by Jasper Fforde

  • Christopher Moore

    Christopher Moore

    Christopher Moore is the author of fifteen novels, including the international bestsellers, Lamb, A Dirty Job, You Suck and Secondhand Souls (2015).

    Chris was born in Toledo, Ohio and grew up in Mansfield, Ohio. His father... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Bagombo Snuff Box

    Try:
    Lamb
    by Christopher Moore

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