"It was a great idea, an idea long overdue. The decision to declare 2007 the Year of Kurt Vonnegut in Indianapolis was the public library’s brainchild. At first the hope was to declare it in time to coincide with the new Central Library’s grand opening. But when that date was pushed back, the library’s Chris Cairo decided to go ahead anyway — she knew Kurt wasn’t getting any younger.
So the library approached the master about coming in the spring to give its annual McFadden Lecture; and then it turned to Mayor Peterson’s office and suggested the city devote an entire year to celebrating the career of its native son.
Peterson thought this was a good idea.
The Year of Vonnegut was born.
Kurt Vonnegut himself was tremendously pleased by this — and a little embarrassed, too. His relationship with his hometown had seen a lot of ups and downs over the years. But, in the end, a certain peace was made. His sense of himself as a native Midwesterner seemed to deepen, and if this was based more upon recollections of things past seasoned with highly selective and only occasional glimpses in the present-tense, it was still a comfort to him — and an inspiration to the rest of us who cared to pay attention to such things.
It’s also worth noting that this city’s devoting itself to a year honoring Kurt Vonnegut probably couldn’t have happened here as little as 10 years ago. Behind that seemingly effortless voice was an edgy moralist with the formal instincts of a great jazz improviser. Kurt’s keen sense of his own mortality made him impatient with the bullshit that often passes for good manners in these parts. While many of us revered his worldwide celebrity, in truth we often shied away from his art and ideas.
So embracing Kurt Vonnegut represented a kind of newfound cultural confidence. For the past 12 months, the city has been aglow with book discussions, talks, performances and art exhibits inspired by his life and works. NUVO has been privileged to publish a different piece of his Confetti series in every one of our 52 issues. Making art, Kurt liked to say, makes your soul grow. If the Year of Kurt Vonnegut turned out to be the year we said farewell, it was also a time when we came that much closer to getting hold of who we can be.