The question that guides decisions at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is WWKW: What Would Kurt Want? In the case of its literary journal, So It Goes (the second volume of which goes on sale at the library this month), the editors decided Kurt would want provocative work from writers and artists, both local and national. The first volume dealt with war and peace: “Come bow to these rich grayhaired men/whose homes are safe and dry and warm/who at the sound of thunder send/your child and mine to meet the storm,” wrote poet Robert West. This year’s edition lightens things up with humor, including contributors such as comedian Lewis Black and cartoonist Ralph Steadman.
Julia Whitehead, the library’s founder and executive director, says the new volume, roughly 120 pages, pulls from the best of the 400-or-so submissions, along with pieces the staff solicited. Black, a member of the library’s honorary board, sent in a selection from his recent book, I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas. Whitehead approached Steadman, who provided two drawings as a kind of thanks to Vonnegut for writing the forward to Steadman’s book about working with Hunter S. Thompson, The Joke’s Over. “We knew Kurt Vonnegut quite a while during the last few years of his life,” Steadman explained in a note to Whitehead. “Such a kind man with a wry wit!”
Local contributors include poet Jayel Kato and author Karl Zimmer. Whitehead’s husband, J.T., a deputy attorney general by day and a poet by night, edits the journal. He came away impressed by how respected Vonnegut’s work is among national writers. “I had some preconceived and ill-defined notions about his readership,” he says. “It turns out he is very much a writer’s writer, and it was nice to see that unfold before our eyes.”
Unfold, it has. Over the summer, a representative of McSweeney’s—that cheeky darling of the literary world—contacted the library to say that editor Dave Eggers wanted to reprint several poems from the first So It Goes in an anthology.
The Nov. 9 release of Volume 2 coincides with the first VonnegutFest, a daylong celebration at the library (and around the city) of the author’s 91st birthday. On the schedule are comedian Gary Gulman, an actor performing a one-man show of two Vonnegut stories in which he plays every role, and a panel discussion featuring author Tim O’Brien and General George Patton’s grandson Benjamin. “I think Kurt would approve,” Whitehead says. “Especially all the volunteer time these writers and artists put into it.”
3 More Indiana Literary Journals Worth Bookmarking
Founded at Butler University in 2009, this one shares its name with legendary Hoosier author Booth Tarkington. Other big writers who have been associated with the pub? Michael Martone and Barbara Shoup. booth.butler.edu
This grandfather of local literary journals first hit stands in 1976. Since then, the IU publication has featured icons such as Scott Russell Sanders, and its pieces have been reprinted in Best American Short Stories. indianareview.org
Notre Dame Review
When you’re publishing Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney (may he rest in peace), you’re doing something right. Established in 1995, this South Bend periodical covers a different theme in each issue. ndreview.nd.edu
This article appeared in the November 2013 issue.