Jacke talks to journalist Tom Roston about his new biography of Kurt Vonnegut, The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse Five. PLUS Jacke reads excerpts from one of Vonnegut’s most famous speeches, the address he gave to Agnes Scott College in 1999. Enjoy!
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“The year was 2081,” the story begins, “and everyone was finally equal.” In this episode of the History of Literature, Jacke and Mike take a look at Kurt Vonnegut’s classic short story, “Harrison Bergeron.” In this 1961 story, Vonnegut imagines a world of the perfectly average, where no one is allowed to be too great – until a hero named Harrison Bergeron comes along. Along the way, we discuss Vonnegut’s life and works, what we think the story means, and Mike’s own attempt to limit himself in order to better function in society. SPOILER ALERT: THERE ARE NO SPOILERS! This episode is completely self-contained. We read the short story, so there’s no need to run out and read it on your own first (unless you want to).
For another self-contained episode on a classic twentieth-century short story, try Episode 139 – “A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka.
For more about short stories in general, try Episode 57 – Borges, Munro, Davis, Barthelme – All About Short Stories (and Long Ones Too).
Kurt Vonnegut makes a cameo appearance in Episode 101 Writers at Work (you’ll never guess his surprising avocation).
And for another high school favorite, try Episode 119 – The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger.
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