IdeaFestival 2014 #4: Wake Up Curious: So It Goes – Julia Whitehead & Kevin Smokler on Kurt Vonnegut

Wake Up Curious: So It Goes

Julia Whitehead, Kevin Smokler

Thursday, October 2, 2014, 8 – 8.45 am, (Kentucky Center)

Kurt Vonnegut was one of America’s most interesting novelists and astute observers of the human condition. His unique style, wit and often biting social commentary have inspired and influenced countless individuals. Julia Whitehead, Founder and Executive Director of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, will lead a conversation on the life, ideas and enduring influence of Vonnegut. Moderated by Kevin Smokler.

Key points

  • How is Vonnegut still relevant today other than as an icon of the late 1960s?
  • Subjects he addressed in the 1970s are the same that we address today: environment, especially climate; militarism / pacifism; capitalism / democracy
  • Banned Books Week / The freedom to read
  • Vonnegut operated on a higher level: Not on a local or national level, but on a global / planetary level, focusing on the human, not ‘national’ experience
  • Unique combination of cynicism & humanism

Whitehead’s favorite Vonnegut aphorism:

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. (Mother Night, 1966)

My favorite Vonnegut aphorism:

The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not. Don’t you yourself like or dislike writers mainly for what they choose to show or make you think about? Did you ever admire an empty-headed writer for his or her mastery of the language? No.

So your own winning style must begin with ideas in your head.

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