Enough Vonnegut?

January 25, 2011
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In 2008, Putnam released "Armageddon in Retrospect," a collection of previous unpublished works by legendary writer/curmudgeon/Indy native son Kurt Vonnegut.

In 2009, Delacorte published "Look at the Birdie," a collection of previously unpublished short fiction by Vonnegut.

This month, thanks to the good folks at Delacorte, we are also seeing "While Mortals Sleep," another collection of unpublished Vonnegut fiction.

And so it goes.

As a reader of just about everything that Vonnegut wanted to be published in his lifetime, I have mixed feelings about the Tupac-like influx of posthumous releases.

On the one hand, Vonnegut was great at what he did and I understand the desire of fans to see "new" work, of academics to want to see it all, and of publishers to make more money.

On the other hand, any of this work could have been published in the writer's lifetime--if he wanted it to be.

If the writer chose to keep these in a drawer, should we respect that? By putting the work between covers,  we make it part of the canon. But, at some point, doesn't the release of such material water down the rest?

In Vonnegut terms: Are those pushing everything the man wrote into bookstores part of a karrass or a granfalloon?

Your thoughts?
 

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  • Of Course
    Anything that Mark Vonnegut deems worthy of releasing is OK with me. Lou, if you don't want to read this material then send your review copy to me. I could save a little money that way.
  • I concur
    If Mark Vonnegut (a talented writer in his own right, check out "Eden Express") is approving these for publication, I trust his judgement.
  • More is better
    I think it's almost always a good idea to get unreleased writing, music, video, etc. out there for the public to experience. If Kurt did not want this stuff to be released after his death he could have easily prevented it by either legal means, a promise from his family, or just by simply destroying it. The fact that he apparently did none of the three (and was smart enough to know things like this would come out after his death) tells you he most likely didn't mind it being released at some point.

    Just because someone didn't want something released while they were a working artist doesn't mean they always want it hidden away forever.
  • posthumous publications
    Franz Kafka would be a minor author with very little output, if his own wishes had been obeyed not to publish anything not already published in his lifetime.
  • More and more and more Vonnegut
    Thanks for covering Vonnegut. Vonnegut sometimes spent years and years editing one of his books before he was truly finished with it so it doesn't surprise me that unfinished stories continue to be found. We are fortunate that Vonnegut's great friend Don Farber, his children, and others are sharing these new stories with us. Cheers
  • Yeah, but No
    It's a valid point, but I agree 100% with points made here by IndyTodd and Sassafras. There is simply no way KV didn't consider the possibility of post-Kurt publishing. Bring it.
  • Apparent Consensus
    May I add that we wouldn't have The Aeneid had it been destroyed as Virgil instructed.
  • Postumous Work
    There's a whole list of notable work published with or without the express consent of the deceased. My two most notable: "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole and the complete writings of Emily Dickinson.

    Perhaps our best example is J.D. Salinger. He died one year ago, and many people speculated (yearned) for unpublished manuscripts to appear.

    Kurt Vonnegut was 84 when he left us, and he had every opportunity to express his wishes with his family and solicitor. Just like his work purposely published during his lifetime, we can judge the worth and significance of his posthumous work. By the way, I particularly found some of the war essays in "Armageddon in Retrospect" very moving and poignant.
  • Canon?
    "By putting the work between covers, we make it part of the canon." This need not be the case, and would be a poor reason for deciding to make them available or not. This work is just writing, and can lend insight into the mind of a great thinker. It would be sad not to make this available to regular folks, rather than some level of scholar. But readers may want to keep in mind the distinctions you make, for all authors.

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