In the final months of World War II, 1,100 bombers descended upon Dresden, raining high explosives and fire bombs on the German city from Feb. 13th through the 15th. During the inferno that killed up to 60,000 civilians, a U.S. prisoner of war by the name of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. survived with his fellow POWs, because they sought shelter some 60 feet underground in a former meat locker and slaughterhouse. And though the Indianapolis native lived through the heinous firestorms, his first job in the aftermath was collecting and burning the remains of dead. The carnage and brutality he witnessed eventually inspired him to write the internationally acclaimed novel Slaughterhouse-Five.
Now 70 years later, Hoosiers can pay tribute to this literary classic and its author, thanks to the inaugural Slaughterhouse-Five Day. Cosponsored by Evoke Arts and Media and the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, the event will take place today Friday, Feb. 13th at Broad Ripple United Methodist Church from 7 to 9 p.m. Festivities will include a performance from the band Kilgore Trout, conversations and discussions related to Slaughterhouse-Five, and more than a dozen Indianapolis-based artists who'll be creating art on the scene.
- Courtesy of Kilgore Trout
Kilgore Trout is comprised of Brad Odom (Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar), Johnny Ping (Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals), Shawna Ping (Keys, Backing Vocals), John Jett (Bass Guitar) and Rocky Rodriguez (Drums).
One of the event's speakers will be Max Goller, an eighth grade composition teacher who also works as director of veterans' and writers' affairs at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. Goller will reflect on the novel through the lens of post-traumatic stress disorder, pointing out that, "Kurt Vonnegut used writing and art as a means of coping with his own post-traumatic stress disorder from World War II."
From that perspective, he believes that the nonlinear story structure of Slaughterhouse-Five parallels with the everyday life of PTSD victims.
"It's similar to what a veteran will go through if they are at a place where they just can't stay on a subject any longer because it's too painful or too challenging, and they just have to disconnect from that and go someplace that isn't causing them that distress," Goller says. "That is very similar to the style of Slaughterhouse-Five. If you read it, it's like reading a jigsaw puzzle."
- Courtesy of Kilgore Trout
You can follow Kilgore Trout on Twitter @KTroutIndy.
While some may categorize Vonnegut as a "science fiction" writer, Goller believes the connection between Slaughterhouse-Five and PTSD also points to the author's real-world take on the often-outrageous sci-fi genre. He reflects, "Every book [of his] seems to have some kind of human message that you can tie into it. I think that's why he's such an attractive writer to me. I'm not a science fiction person necessarily, but the humanity of his books resonates." In the end, it's this love for Vonnegut that Goller hopes to spread via events like this.
For more information on Slaughterhouse-Five Day, visit its Facebook page.
Help Get Kurt Vonnegut Unstuck in Time
Incidentally, another monumental Vonnegut-inspired project kicked off this week. Academy Award nominated and Golden Globe award-winning documentary filmmaker, Robert B. Weide (who also produced and directed the hit HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm) launched a Kickstarter campaign with his talented codirector Don Argott. The two hope to raise enough funds to complete the first-ever, full-length documentary covering the fascinating life and work of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Weide began his friendship (and self-funded film work) with Vonnegut back in 1982, and it continued on and off throughout many years. Now Weide hopes that with a little help from friends and fellow Vonnegut followers, he and Argott can complete the documentary at last.
To date, there’s never been a definitive film covering the literary Hoosier hero in this depth. Weide captured extensive footage of the acclaimed author, including Vonnegut talking on camera from his boyhood home in Indianapolis, from his IPS #43 grade school, and from Shortridge High School (where he began his love of writing on the school newspaper, The Echo). Weide also possesses 16 mm home movies of Vonnegut and his family -- footage dating back to 1925 when the author was only 3 years old.
- Courtesy of Bob Weide & Don Argott
Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time just needs a little help before it is complete.
The interviewing, filming and travels fostered a deep friendship between the two men. And though the acclaimed filmmaker admits to a certain melancholy he expects upon completion of his 33-year project, Weide looks forward to bringing his old friend's life to light.
Check out the teaser for Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time,the documentary by Weide and Argott. Also, #KurtVonnegut fans can help @BobWeide complete his @VonnegutDoc by making a donation to his Kickstarter campaign and by sharing some social love on Facebook. Please LIKE him at "Kurt Vonnegut Documentary."