WE PUBLISHED AN OVERVIEW of Kurt Vonnegut's work in our sixth issue (Sept/Oct 2003), and a week or two after the magazine came out, I got a call on my office telephone. I was deep in the throes of editing, so I ignored it. Then my cell phone began ringing, and that same telephone number appeared on the screen. I figured it must be a friend, so I answered the phone. The caller had already hung up. So I dialed the number back and said, "Hi, I'm Jon Phillips and I think you're trying to call me." A scratchy voice replied "Hello! This is Kurt Vonnegut."
Famous people don't usually call us, and we don't interview many authors. We dislike putting a writer through the "personality profile" exercise; we'd rather discuss the books and keep the artist and his or her art separate. So when Mr. Vonnegut called, I was stunned and helplessly inarticulate while he was so, so gracious. He was very pleased with the profile Jessica, our managing editor, had written; he told me it was the best article he had read on his life and his work, and he ordered multiple copies and subscriptions for his children so that "they could finally understand my work too."
Life hands you surprising gifts--and that call was one of them. Bookmarks was just getting started, we were toiling in obscurity, and that phone call made us feel like we were on the right track.
Kurt Vonnegut, who suffered from depression, is often cited for his pessimistic view of humanity. Most of the recent...