A Woman to Know: Jane Vonnegut Yarmolinsky

Jane would cry 'It's all an ocean!' when she was struck by how everything was interconnected. — Vonnegut biographer Ginger Strand

(Photo by Edith Vonnegut)

When Kurt Vonnegut was fielding rejection after rejection after rejection in the early days of his writing career, his wife Jane would keep three candles alight on the kitchen table. They stood for three words: "Keep. On. Trying."

But Jane was a literary mind in her own right. She dreamt of being a screenwriter or a news correspondent --but beyond that, she believed that Kurt could be one of the voices changing modern literature. She coached and edited and retyped to make sure this dream could come true.

Though her legacy has been overshadowed by her husband's mammoth following, numerous modern scholars point to Jane's direct influence on Kurt's work, including character shape, plot decision and more. She was a key editor-before-his-editors, and even after they divorced, she remained one of his readers. "I wish I could write as well as you," Kurt once wrote to her. "Right now you're the composer, and I'm the musical instrument."

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