Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote dozens of satirical novels whose central theme was life's cosmic joke on humanity. A modern-day Mark Twain, right down to the bushy mustache and black humor, Vonnegut was often called a science fiction author, but more often he used the cloak of sci-fi as a means to deliver his cranky-but-funny deliberations on the human condition. His best-known books include Cat's Cradle (1963), Welcome to the Monkey House (1968), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Slapstick (1976). Many of his books featured a character named Kilgore Trout, a fictional author who was something of an alter-ego for Vonnegut himself. Kurt Vonnegut was a World War II veteran who survived prisoner-of-war camps and the American bombing of Dresden, Germany, events that informed much of his fiction. Vonnegut was an especially fashionable author in the late 1960s and 1970s; his once-daring satire lost its literary luster in later years, but he continues to be popular with late teen and young adult readers.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s father was also named Kurt… Vonnegut was the unwitting subject of a famous Internet hoax in 1997: a list of whimsical advice for college graduates (which began with the admonition “Wear sunscreen”) was widely circulated via e-mail, and said to be the text of a Vonnegut commencement address at MIT. In truth, Vonnegut had no connection with the essay. It was written by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich… Venus on the Half-Shell, a real-life 1975 novel “by” Kilgore Trout, was written not by Vonnegut but by Philip Jose Farmer.