Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Brothers Vonnegut by Ginger Strand

  • THE BOOK
    • The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic by Ginger Strand
    • Published November 17, 2015
    • Other works by the author include: Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate, Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power and Lies and Flight.

  • THE PREMISE
    • After World War II both Kurt Vonnegut and his older brother Bernard worked for General Electric in Schenectady, New York, Kurt in P.R. and Bernard as a high level scientist.
    • Bernard was instrumental in the cloud seeding experiments whereby it could be made to rain in the desert or stop a hurricane before it reached land. 
      • Because weather affects warfare the army hoped to use these methods too.
      • The book covers every detail of the cloud seeding experiment
    • Kurt had not established himself as a writer yet and GE offered a steady paycheck for a young married man with a new family to support.
      • In the war he had been a prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany during the firebombing of that town, staying safe by sheltering in a slaughterhouse. 
      • His war experiences along with his time in corporate culture affected the themes and topics of his novels.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I discovered Kurt Vonnegut while I was a high school junior. I read all the books our library had: Breakfast of Champions, Slapstick, Slaughterhouse 5, and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. I loved them.
      • I'm not sure how these books made it into a high school library. Breakfast of Champions includes illustrations by Kurt. For instance, he draws a large asterisk which is his rendering of an asshole. How could a naive 17-year-old resist?!
    • As I mentioned, this book covers every detail of cloud seeding. EVERY detail. At first it is pretty interesting --- you get to learn a lot about the famed scientists of the era --- but then it's just too...much...cloud...seeding...information!
    • This isn't a biography because it covers very little that happened before the war and very little that happened after the mid-1950s.
    • I enjoyed the book, especially the sections on Kurt, but you will definitely appreciate the brilliance of Bernard.
    • One sad fact: Kurt and his wife always joked they would have 7 children once they married. They had three. But then Kurt and Bernard's brother-in-law died in a train derailment accident two days before his wife, their sister Alice, died of cancer. Kurt and his wife adopted their 3 children. 
      • He ultimately adopted a 7th child with his second wife.
    • Recommended for fans of Kurt Vonnegut and everyone who wants to know how to seed a cloud. Also the book really delves into the corporate culture of General Electric in the 1950s. That part is fascinating.

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