Kurt Vonnegut: WNYC Reporter on the Afterlife

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Kurt Vonnegut's signature on a letter to WNYC producer Marty Goldensohn in 1997

The author Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) worked with WNYC producer Marty Goldensohn on a 1998 series known as Reports on the Afterlife. A year earlier, Vonnegut explained these reports would come as a result of "controlled near-death experiences."

Making this possible were Dr. Jack Kevorkian and the facilities of a Huntsville, Texas execution chamber. Together they provided the author with the ability to make "more than one hundred visits to Heaven, and my returning to life to tell the tale," he wrote. That tale is about Vonnegut's take on the way a number of the dead review their own lives. Among those interviewed were the famous, infamous and little known. They included: Eugene Victor Debs, Sir Isaac Newton, Frances Keane, Peter Pellegrino, Adolf Hitler and Burnum Burnum.

Subsequently, most of these reports were drawn together into the book, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian and published in 1999 by Seven Stories Press. In the introduction Vonnegut writes:

"This booklet of my conversations with the dead-and-buried was created in the hope that it would earn a little bit of money--not for me, but for the National Public Radio Station WNYC." And it did. The reports, like the one above and those below, provided listeners with an opportunity to catch Vonnegut's keen observational skills as a reporter from a distant place, where neither before, nor since, WNYC has had a stringer.

Editors Note: We have not been able to locate all of the interviews in this series since they were produced before the archives was founded as a formal department. Missing reports (Shakespeare and Asimov and any others) will definitely be included if they turn up.

Eugene Victor Debs

Karla Faye Tucker

 Dr.  Fred H. Mattson

Adolf Hitler

John Wesley Joyce

Roberta Gorsuch Burke

Sir Isaac Newton

Frances Keane

James Earl Ray

Dr. Mary D. Ainsworth

Salvatore Biagini

Harold Epstein

Peter Pellegrino

Clarence Darrow

Debate on Hell