Kurt Vonnegut’s home town of Indianapolis officially misses him, and to prove it they’re having “The Year of Vonnegut” this year, full of “events and activities to honor Vonnegut and his contributions to American literature and art.” Mayor Bart Peterson says that Vonnegut “mixed dark humor with critical thinking and impacted the way many view the society we live in.”

IOW, don’t let the kiddies actually READ that stuff. Vonnegut may suffer the same unattractive fate as Edgar Lee Masters, who grew up downstate, became a Chicago attorney, and wrote one immortal book — Spoon River Anthology — for which his former neighbors excoriated him. Now their great-grandchildren have made him part of the local fall tourist package

This sleight-of-hand is possible because both Vonnegut and Masters spoke pleasant truths as well as unpleasant ones. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater has a moving welcome to newborns:

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'”

On the other side, in Cat’s Cradle Vonnegut also quotes Masters’s “Knowlt Hoheimer,” and concludes with a hubristic scientific experiment freezing solid almost everyone and everything on earth. At that point the holy man Bokonon offers advice to the book’s main character:

“If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”

Which one do you think will be featured in Indianapolis?