At first glance, Loree Rackstraw's homage to her friendship with one of the world's greatest writers, Kurt Vonnegut, reads like a who's-who of the male, American literary canon of the second half of the 20th century, with cameos by Truman Capote, John Irving, Arthur Miller, Andre Dubus, George Plimpton, and Joseph Heller. Aside from the glittering glimpses into the private lives of these literary giants, her memoir, Love as Always, Kurt: Vonnegut as I Knew Him (Da Capo Press), is a study in both relationships that seem to defy easy categorization (like Rackstraw and Vonnegut's) and the role of the artist in modern society. The death of Rackstraw's husband at his own hand spurs a meditation on the psychological state of artists. She suggests that the artist's own mental stability is a sacrificial lamb that allows access into the human mind, as well as insight into larger social issues. Through her epistolary relationship with Vonnegut and incisive analysis of his writing, Rackstraw gives us a rich and complicated Vonnegut: a man who is at once funny and wounded, serious and playful; a man who, in living by his own adage, "We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you different," was able to do much more than just fart around. Also at Magers & Quinn Booksellers (3038 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.822.4611) Saturday, April 18, at 5 p.m.
Thu., April 16, 7:30 p.m., 2009