Kurt Vonnegut isn’t merely the foul-mouthed author perennially popular among surly, booksmart teenagers. He was also a humane political satirist cut from the Mark Twain cloth, assuring him bogeyman status among the Fox News commentariat, and ensuring that his novels would remain the continued targets of book-banning campaigns. Not bad for an arch raconteur and compassionate curmudgeon who died four years ago. Because of his popularity among sullen teenagers, within literary circles Vonnegut has been relegated to the second-tier status reserved for the likes of J.D. Salinger and Sylvia Plath. In Unstuck in Time: A Journey Through Kurt Vonnegut’s Life and Novels, Gregory Sumner aims to rehabilitate Vonnegut’s literary reputation while examining the author’s role as a moral voice opposing the very social, political, and economic forces that self-proclaimed representatives of the 99 percent now protest. Despite the Tralfamadorian aliens and poop jokes, Vonnegut’s works were fierce critiques of the notion of the American Dream, that century-old mirage keeping Americans individualistic, rapaciously ambitious, and desperate. In Unstuck in Time, Sumner tracks Vonnegut’s mounting outrage at the excesses and inequalities of American capitalism by exploring his growth as an author, thinker, and public citizen. In doing so, Sumner establishes Vonnegut as a far more sophisticated thinker than he’s often given credit for, whose books grow increasingly relevant by the day.
Mon., Dec. 5, 6 p.m., 2011