Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was a 20th century American writer. His works such as Cat's Cradle
Cat's Cradle
Cat's Cradle is the fourth novel by American writer Kurt Vonnegut, first published in 1963. It explores issues of science, technology, and religion, satirizing the arms race and many other targets along the way...

(1963), Slaughterhouse-Five
Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death is a satirical novel by Kurt Vonnegut about World War II experiences and journeys through time of a soldier called Billy Pilgrim...

(1969) and Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is a 1973 novel by the American author Kurt Vonnegut. Set in the fictional town of Midland City, it is the story of "two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast." One of these men, Dwayne Hoover, is a normal-looking but...

(1973) blend satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

, gallows humor
Gallows humor
Gallows humor , derives from gallows which is a platform with a noose used to execute people by hanging. Gallows humor is the type of humor that still manages to be funny in the face of, and in response to, a perfectly hopeless situation...

 and science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

. He was known for his humanist
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

 beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association
American Humanist Association
The American Humanist Association is an educational organization in the United States that advances Humanism. "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that...

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was born in Indianapolis
Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population is 839,489. It is by far Indiana's largest city and, as of the 2010 U.S...

, Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

 to third-generation German-American parents, Kurt Vonnegut, Sr. and Edith Lieber. Both his father and his grandfather Bernard Vonnegut
Bernard Vonnegut Sr.
Bernard Vonnegut, Sr., WAA, FAIA, was an American lecturer and architect active in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Indiana. He was a co-founder of the locally renowned Indianapolis architectural firm of Vonnegut and Bohn. He was active in a range of residential, religious,...

 attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

 and were architects in the Indianapolis firm of Vonnegut & Bohn
Vonnegut & Bohn
Vonnegut & Bohn, was an architectural firm active in early- to mid-twentieth-century Indianapolis, Indiana.Founded in 1888 by Bernard Vonnegut Sr., FAIA and Arthur Bohn , all the partners were German Americans and were trained in both American and German architectural academies, which gave their...


I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts. This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever.

"Physicist, Purge Thyself" in the Chicago Tribune Magazine (22 June 1969)

High school is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of.

Introduction to Our Time Is Now: Notes From the High School Underground, John Birmingham, ed. (1970)

I was taught in the sixth grade that we had a standing army of just over a hundred thousand men and that the generals had nothing to say about what was done in Washington. I was taught to be proud of that and to pity Europe for having more than a million men under arms and spending all their money on airplanes and tanks. I simply never unlearned junior civics. I still believe in it. I got a very good grade.

As quoted by James Lundquist in Kurt Vonnegut (1971)

I was taught that the human brain was the crowning glory of evolution so far, but I think it’s a very poor scheme for survival.

As quoted in The Observer [London] (27 December 1987)

1. Find a subject you care about.2. Do not ramble, though.3. Keep it simple.4. Have the guts to cut.5. Sound like yourself.6. Say what you mean to say.7. Pity the readers.

As quoted in Science Fictionisms (1995), compiled by William Rotsler

I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

"Knowing What's Nice", an essay from In These Times (2003)