Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Katherine Burger Interview

Chances are that if you’re familiar with Kurt Vonnegut, you’ll have come across references to Knox Burger, before. Burger published Vonnegut’s first short story, “Report on the Barnhouse Effect” and has been celebrated by a range of authors, including Kurt. Vonnegut has suggested that Burger “discovered and encouraged more good young writers than any other editor of his time” and the author’s short story collection, Welcome to the Monkey House, is dedicated to Burger.

Katherine Burger, the daughter of Knox Burger, was kind enough to answer a few questions for the blog, relating to her father and Vonnegut, as well as her home on Bethune Street, which readers of Mother Night will no doubt know as Howard Campbell’s NY apartment. Katherine currently lives in Campbell’s “home” and you can find out more about this fictional setting – and real life building – by reading the interview. If you’d like to find out more about Katherine’s work as a playwright and artist, make sure to visit

It would be wonderful if you could tell me a little bit about yourself, such your work as a playwright, and how you find living in New York?
I am a playwright and visual artist. My website is I also am the Director of the Artist In Residence Program at the Byrdcliffe Art Colony in Woodstock NY, and live there almost half the year. New York City is an amazing place, but full of stimuli and rather exhausting. It's nice to live in the (relatively) quiet woods for the summer.

Your father was the first person to publish a story by Kurt Vonnegut and Welcome to the Monkey House is dedicated to him. Did Vonnegut and your father work together throughout their lives? 
My father wasn't Kurt's agent. Their relationship was more one of friendship, after some early literary business. They first met at Cornell. My family spent summers with the Vonneguts when my sister and I were children, and Knox and Kurt remained friends all their lives.

Do you have any stories you could share about Vonnegut and your father?
I think that their stories belonged to them, so I guess not.

Do you think your parents' interest in the arts may have inspired you to pursue a similar path?
Absolutely. Both of my parents were writers, my mother is also an artist, and my father's father was an artist, Carl Burger. He illustrated "Old Yeller" and many other books, and became an author in his 70's. So writing and the arts run in the family on both sides.

How do you find living in Howard Campbell's home? Could you tell me what the building is like?
The building was built is the 1860's I believe.* I used to know the exact date; you can probably research it. It's a townhouse, originally built for one family, now divided into 3 apartments. I grew up in the ground floor, garden apartment, and have rented out the top floor and 1/2 from my mother for around 20 years, the apartment where Kurt put Howard Campbell. I don't think of it as his home, however.

Do you often receive enquiries about your residence?

*27 Bethune Street was built in the 1830s.

You can find out more about Knox Burger by visiting Wikipedia or the New York Times website. I'd like to thank Katherine for taking the time to answer the above questions.

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