Story behind story: free lecture on Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim

Dateline: Tue 01 Jun 2010

This release is from Julia Whitehead, exec director of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library here:

Unstuck in Time: Rochester’s Connection to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five

INDIANAPOLIS, IN The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library will be sponsoring a free public lecture on June 8 by noted historian Grant Holcomb who will tell the story of the real-life soldier who  Vonnegut used  as the model for  Billy Pilgrim, the central character in his classic novel “ Slaughterhouse-Five.”

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library lecture will be held on June 8 at 7 p.m. at the Athenaeum, 201 E. Michigan St., Indianapolis, IN 26204. Over the years, Vonnegut has said that the Billy Pilgrim character in his book was based on a young Rochester, New York man who, like Vonnegut, served in the 106th Infantry, was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge and held as a POW in Dresden, Germany.  Unlike Vonnegut, however, the real-life Edward R. Crone did not survive the war and, unlike Billy Pilgrim, he did not return to upstate New York to marry and raise a family. 

 During his lecture, Holcomb will discuss Crone’s early years in Rochester, his service during the war (including the bombing of Dresden), his relationship to the character in the Vonnegut novel and how it took his parents five years after the war to locate their son’s body in order to bring him home for burial in Rochester. Holcomb worked with Kurt Vonnegut on developing this presentation on Crone and is coming to Indianapolis to share insights into this important character in Vonnegut’s work.

About Grant Holcomb

Holcomb is the Mary W. and Donald R. Clark Director of the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY. Born and raised in California, Holcomb received his B.A. in History from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Art History from the University of Delaware.  He taught at Mount Holyoke College (1972-1979) before returning to California to begin his museum career at the San Diego Museum of Art where he served as curator and later Assistant Director. He assumed the directorship of the Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester in 1985.

Holcomb was a Kress Fellow at the National Gallery of Art, has been the recipient of fellowships and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Arts, Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum and the New York State Council on the Arts, among others.  He has written a number of articles, essays and exhibition catalogs on 19th and 20th century American art.  He is married and the father of five children.

About the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Foundation is a public benefit, nonprofit organization championing the literary, artistic, and cultural contributions of the late writer, artist and Indiana native Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  More information on the Vonnegut Library can be found at  Please RSVP for this special event by e-mailing 



Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Sometimes, I love this town.

2010-06-02 05:14:20

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Interesting that information on this event appears NOWHERE on the website!

2010-06-02 08:47:53

JL Kato [unverified] said:

Ms. Cynical: It's there. Click It's the third item.

2010-06-02 14:06:05

JL Kato [unverified] said:

My apoligies, Ms. Cynical. Forget my oprevious comment. I'm shooting before looking again It's obvious no one has updated the Vonnegut website for a while.

2010-06-02 14:14:12

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Billy Pilgrim is not unlike Forrest Gump. He is a throughly inept soldier and attracts the ire of others. He stumbles back and forth in time with generally rewarding results through no apparent effort by him.

Which may be one of KV's points, that what's gonna happen is gonna happen (and always happens) despite our efforts.

I wonder what characteristics of Crone's KV borrowed for Billy's character. Couldn't have been much as Crone died a POW.... (One of Pilgrim's POW pals, an older, educated man, is shot as a looter by the Germans because he finds an unbroken piece of Dresden in the ruins of-- Dresden-- and makes the mistake of admiring it. Is this Crone?)

2010-06-02 14:49:41

hendy [Member] said:

Hi Ho!

2010-06-03 08:05:46

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

My snark worked.

The event is now posted on the site!

2010-06-03 15:13:08

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Of course, I do have to point out that the Athenaeum (designed by K. V.'s grandfather) is located at 401 East Michigan Street, not 201 (as noted in the posting on the Vonnegut site).

2010-06-03 15:17:12

Marycatherine Barton [unverified] said:

I bet this lecturer really held the audience's attention. Love that Kurt, and Slaughterhouse Five is classic.

2010-06-12 01:20:29

Comments are closed.


or Register


Syndicate Blog