The battle between art and science continues | arts and entertainment

When my two older boys were in grade school – maybe 8 and 10 – I took them to Chicago to see the usual sights. After visiting the Aquarium, the Field Museum and the Art Institute, we went to a modern art gallery just north of Millennium Park. After seeing several unusual rooms, we wandered around the basement, much of which was taken up by an old oven. It was noisy and we could see the fire through its glass door. On this door was a sign explaining that the furnace was a satirical piece created by a Chicago sculptor. I explained this to my boys, who seemed puzzled but interested. Then, as we approached the ground floor steps, Alan, the 8 year old, asked, “Dad, are these stairs real or are they art?” I told him I wasn’t sure. Almost three decades later, when my youngest son was in high school, I took him to Indianapolis to see and hear from Kurt Vonnegut, who was then and still is considered one of America’s greatest satirists. His stories weave in and out of linear time and between reality and imagination.

These memories are the preface to my admission that I’m still unsure of the stairs. The confusion is why, aside from “Slaughterhouse 5”, I haven’t read much of Vonnegut’s fiction. Satire bothers me. I’m afraid when I laugh at something, that the author is serious. Or when I’m shocked, worried or embarrassed by a passage, the author makes fun of the situation, and I miss it.

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Chuck Avery is a retired teacher who grew up in the Bucktown neighborhood of Connersville.

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