William Rodney Allen is the author of Understanding Kurt Vonnegut and the editor of Conversations with Kurt Vonnegut. He is a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis, Indiana.
In this archival interview, the famed author defends his fiction against critics who to pan his writing, comparing his detractors to “circus geeks” who “bite the heads off chickens for the amusement of the rubes who walk by.”
Kurt Vonnegut tells Walter James Miller why he abandoned the sketchy sci-fi plot lines that had made Slapsticksuch a punching bag for critics in favor of a sharp-eyed political realism of what has come to be known as his “Watergate novel,” Jailbird.
This May 1, 1978 interview was the third Vonnegut had with Walter James Miller for WNYC’s “Writers’ Almanac.” This time, Vonnegut shares the microphone with journalist/novelist L. J. Davis. The topic was “the novelist’s relationship to community.”
Vonnegut talks about his strange sci-fi tale of fraternal twins who are brilliant when they can interact with each other but only “dull normal” when separated. He reveals that his portrait of these fictional twins was based on his deep real-life bond with his only sister, Alice.
After years of obscurity in the 1950s and early 1960s, Vonnegut now found himself one of the handful of most-talked about writers in America. This interview reveals him at the top of his game—confidently proclaiming the novelist’s ability to “make up new myths that people will believe.”