Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (born November 11, 1922) is an American
novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He
was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.
He was born in Indianapolis, the setting for many of his
novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943,
where he served as an opinions section editor for the
student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained
as a chemist and worked as a journalist before joining the
U.S. Army and serving in World War II. He is a combat
infantry veteran and holds a Purple Heart.
After the war, he attended the University of Chicago as a
graduate student in anthropology and also worked as a
police reporter at the City News Bureau of Chicago. He left
Chicago to work in Schenectady, New York, in public
relations for General Electric. He attributed his unadorned
writing style to his reporting work.
His experiences as an advance scout in the Battle of the
Bulge, and in particular his witnessing of the bombing of
Dresden, Germany, while a prisoner of war, would inform
much of his work. This event would also form the core of
his most famous work, Slaughterhouse-Five, the book that
would make him a millionaire. This acerbic 200-page book is
what most people mean when they describe a work
as "Vonnegutian" in scope.
Vonnegut is a self-proclaimed humanist and socialist
(influenced by the style of Indiana's own Eugene V. Debs)
and has recently done a print advertisement for the
American Civil Liberties Union. He is also a notable world
From 1970 to 2000, Vonnegut lived in an East Side Manhattan
brownstone, with his wife, the renowned photographer Jill
Krementz. On January 31, 2000, a fire destroyed the top
story of his home. Vonnegut suffered smoke inhalation and
was hospitalized in critical condition for four days. He
survived, but his personal archives were destroyed, and
after leaving the hospital he retired to Northampton,
Massachusetts. He taught an advanced writing class at Smith
College for a period in 2000.