The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic
The two Vonnegut brothers, older Bernard and younger Kurt, were as different as brothers could be. Bernard was a genius scientist who earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from MIT in 1939. Kurt dropped out of Cornell in 1943 to join the army, where he was captured during the Battle of the Bulge and survived the Allied firebombing of Dresden. Bernard was the left brain: analytical, a man exploring the world through math. Kurt was the right: creative, a free thinker who knew he could be a great fiction writer. But until Kurt made his big literary break, he would have to support his new wife and the seven children they vowed to have.
In 1945, Bernard joined General Electric's research lab in Schenectady, N.Y., a playground for scientists nicknamed the "House of Magic." There he became fascinated by weather modification and control as part of GE's Project Cirrus. When the military took interest in Bernard's work he, like other scientists gravely concerned by the recent unleashing of atomic power over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, found himself in a moral morass.
Meanwhile, Kurt got a job in GE's public relations department and chafed under a conformist corporate culture. The Brothers Vonnegut by Ginger Strand (Killer on the Road) tracks Bernard's work with Project Cirrus and Kurt's struggle to start his writing career. Strand connects Kurt's time at GE and Bernard's weather modification efforts with Kurt's writing, especially in Cat's Cradle. The Brothers Vonnegut is an enthralling mix of science and literature surrounding the formative years of a literary icon. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer