Kurt Vonnegut is gone but not forgotten. He died eight years ago now, but his works still are celebrated for their satirical humor and a startling creativity that experimented with traditional narratives. Mark Vonnegut is a pediatrician working in the suburbs of Boston. He also happens to be the only son of the late writer Kurt Vonnegut. And, he used to be insane. Vonnegut has suffered four psychotic breaks in his life, but it’s been 25 years since the last one. He shares stories about growing up, and cracking up, in his memoir Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So.
Next, Bob talks with Vonnegut’s longtime friend Sidney Offit. He wrote the forward for a collection of some of Vonnegut’s previously unpublished short stories. It’s called, Look at the Birdie. Offit joins Bob to reminisce about Vonnegut’s early career and the heyday of magazine fiction, when works by the best writers appeared at newsstands and not just the bookstore.
Then, when an author dies, often our only way to peek into his personal life is by parsing lines of prose. Then there’s Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote enough personal letters, when he wasn’t writing novels and short stories, to fill decades. They also fill more than 400 pages in the book, Kurt Vonnegut: Letters. The volume is edited by Dan Wakefield, a friend of Vonnegut, and fellow writer and native Hoosier.
No one has a voice like Ken Nordine, and there’s nothing quite like Word Jazz, the audio art he created. It mixes atmospheric sound effects, free-form jazz and Nordine’s unique rumbling bass voice, pondering philosophical questions, plumbing the depths of his id, or simply wondering what’s in the fridge. Bob visited the soon-to-be 95-year-old at his house in Chicago. Nordine has lived in that spot for more than half a century. We’ll tour his home studio and hear about his early days in radio, collaborations with The Grateful Dead and Tom Waits, and how Nordine created Word Jazz.