I have seen a lot of people this week. They all have stories. Most are Kurt fans already, like-minded people who come here to explore his life, or to just say “yes” to the freedom to read.
Occasionally you get someone who is not so familiar with Kurt (I am on a first-name basis with him now). These interactions are the most fun for me. I get to articulate my own thoughts and feelings, and cultivate a new reader into the Vonnegut fold. I like that. Pay it forward.
This week I sleep behind a wall of banned and challenged books. People love it. They want to see how many they have read. They ask how many I have read (maybe 200 of the 500 or so books in the wall?). They marvel at the inclusion of Charlotte’s Web or Little Women. It’s easier for people to get why Lolita or A Clockwork Orange are there, but a little harder to grasp the more subtle insanity of including the seemingly innocent tales of women and children.
They want to know why I am doing this. What’s the point? That’s tougher. It all makes perfect sense to me. I usually say it’s because I don’t want someone else deciding what I or my children can read. By all means decide what your own children read. That’s called parenting. But when it extends to deciding what others read, that’s called censorship.
Being Locked Up with Vonnegut is the inverse of “celebrity.” Everyone knows you are here, but no one knows who you are or why. And when you tell them, they nod politely, but it all seems to work out. Surprisingly few librarians have visited. I hope they are all busy with Banned Books Week.
Sleeping in a window is a bit bizarre. I fortunately attract little attention from the bar patrons across the street. People look, nod, and move on. But I’m still waiting….
And they feed me—well. Tonight I shucked my own oysters (from Milktooth, the hottest restaurant in Indy). It all goes up on Facebook, and my colleagues are finding it hard to believe that I’m somehow “imprisoned” here. It’s certainly not like prison, and I won’t pretend it is. But I am locked up here in the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. It’s not prison, but it ain’t no picnic either—except for the food.
One of the best parts of each day are the programs at noon and 6 p.m. Smart, interesting people saying smart, interesting things. While I thought I would learn a lot about Kurt, banned books, censorship, and downtown nightlife (I did), I didn’t expect to finally learn about poetry. I heard a lot of it this week. Poets Joe Heithaus, Marc Hudson, and Tyrone Williams moved me in unexpected ways. Actor Constance Macy introduced me (figuratively) to Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I am forever in her debt.
And of course, I still have a job. I’m not asking for sympathy; that’s just how it is. So I feel uncertain whether I am failing or succeeding at either.
All that said, it’s invigorating, interesting, heartwarming, and fun (most of the time). I so appreciate everyone here. Their spirit, curiosity, taste in music, all of it. It’s a good gig.