A few years before he died I had the pleasure of seeing Kurt Vonnegut speak to a sold-out crowd at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I remember him saying he didn’t have much hope for the world, we’ve screwed it up too badly already, but that a few things still make life worthwhile, one of them being music. On that note he ended his talk, cued the auditorium to fill with the transcendent notes of Strauss’ “Blue Danube” and proceeded to waltz around the stage with an imaginary partner.
Kurt passed on his enjoyment of the arts as a saving grace to his son Mark Vonnegut, who includes a few of his own paintings in his new memoir, “Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So.” Growing up in a household with a long history of mental illness and a father who spoke of suicide casually, Mark tells how the arts have been a coping strategy throughout his life in dealing with bipolar disorder. Mark’s story of humility and grace in striving to live a normal life and maintaining a demanding career — all while living with mental illness — is worthy in it’s own right. That it offers insight into what it was like to be the son of one of America’s most famous authors is just a bonus. Continue reading