How Jane Vonnegut Made Kurt Vonnegut a Writer

Strand-Jane-and-Kurt-Vonnegut-1-320Ginger Strand at The New Yorker:

Jane would continue to be the source of his confidence for the next twenty-five years. Many of the ideas and images for which he became known had their source in the couple’s mutual dialogue. “You ask me questions I like to answer,” he told her. In his letters to Jane he mused on the nature of time, on the dangers of science, on the existence or nonexistence of God. “The greatest man to ever live will be the one that invents the real God, and presents the World with a book of His teachings,” he wrote her in 1945. “A bible written in a Lunatic Asylum may be the answer.” It’s hard to imagine a better summary of Bokononism, the fictitious religion Vonnegut would go on to depict in “Cat’s Cradle.”

In “Timequake,” his semi-autobiographical last novel, published in 1997, Vonnegut recalls that Jane submitted a controversial thesis when she was at Swarthmore. It argued “that all that could be learned from history was that history itself was absolutely nonsensical, so study something else, like music.” He is, in essence, glossing the last line of “Slaughterhouse-Five,” where Billy Pilgrim wakes up to discover that the war has ended. He and his buddies wander outside into a springtime day. Birds are singing. “One bird said to Billy Pilgrim, ‘Poo-tee-weet?’ ” As Jane had argued, there’s no meaning to be made from a massacre, from death in industrial quantities.

more here.