cover image Love, Kurt: The Vonnegut Love Letters, 1941-1945

Love, Kurt: The Vonnegut Love Letters, 1941-1945

Edited by Edith Vonnegut. Random, $35 (240p) ISBN 978-0-59313-301-9

Kurt Vonnegut toiled in obscurity before 1969’s Slaughterhouse-Five made him a household name, but the artist he would become is already present in this revelatory collection of letters to his first wife, Jane Cox, from 1941 through the end of WWII. Edith Vonnegut, their daughter, discovered the letters, presented here as facsimiles, in her childhood home’s attic. In them, her father writes vividly of love (“I saw the Northern Lights for the first time tonight. It was pretty much like kissing you, and just as rare”), the army (“My new job is to cover my face and hands with soot and crawl into enemy lines to see what in hell they’ve got”), existential despair (“This is a destitute, hating, bleeding world”), and worries about a nuclear future (“Ten years from now, how many men will know how to turn Earth into a blazing lesser Sun?”). Near the collection’s end, Kurt writes Jane that “you scare me when you say that I would have been Shakespeare had I lived then... Angel, will you stick by me if it goes backwards and downwards?”—a poignant question given that he was the one who left their marriage in 1971. Literary buffs will relish this fascinating, intimate glimpse of a renowned writer’s formative years. (Nov.)