Monday, April 6, 2015

Literary Tourism: Vonnegut in Indianapolis

My family went to Indianapolis for Spring Break, and while we were there, we visited the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. I'll be honest - I'd never read anything by Vonnegut. I heard so much hype about him in creative writing classes and grad school that I actually thought he was overrated. But Will loves him, and I love libraries and anything book-related, so I had no problem stopping at the Memorial Library.

It's basically two rooms in a downtown Indianapolis building. You walk in to a large, open space - inviting and well-lit, even on a rainy day. Some of Vonnegut's sketches are framed on the walls, as well as Vonnegut-inspired prints by other artists. A large touchscreen plays interviews with Morley Safer and other friends on a loop, and you can sit on a bench and listen for awhile. The next room has memorabilia from Vonnegut's military career, personal items like glasses and his last pack of cigarettes, and his original typewriter.

You can sit at a replica of Vonnegut's writing setup and type a message. He wrote on a typewriter, set on a low table, from an even-lower chair. It looks cozy and uncomfortable at the same time.

The library is an actual lending library, and there are more than just Vonnegut books for checkout. This is, however, a collection of signed books, first editions, and tickets to a speaking engagement that never happened, due to Vonnegut's death.

A touchscreen computer in this room allows you to read some of Vonnegut's unpublished works, plays, and letters. Oh - and rejection letters! Some of them are pretty funny, though I'm not sure if they're supposed to be. It was humorous to me, knowing what little I did about Vonnegut's risque subject matter, to see a rejection letter from Woman's Home Companion.

The Memorial Library is definitely worth a visit if you're anywhere near the area - this coming from someone who wasn't even a Vonnegut fan. Those who think it was crazy of me to visit a memorial library for an author I don't know might be pleased to note that as of now, I'm reading Look at the Birdie, a collection of previously unpublished short stories, and really enjoying them.

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