Friday, April 13, 2007


I haven't had much time lately, keeping me away from here and forcing me to leave some posts on the back-burner, unfinished. I did, however, want to duck in and say a wee bit about Kurt Vonnegut, who died the other day. I've always liked Vonnegut, read several of his novels, though I was never a huge fan. Outside of Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle (my two favorites), and maybe Galapagos, much of his work seemed sort of random to me. It was never entirely clear to me what the point of some of the books was--often things didn't seem to hang together much. That said, even the seemingly more random works were often full of a lot of great, funny writing. And it occurs to me now that perhaps they weren't meant to "hang together" and that I may have been trying to force them into novel-sized holes.

I have a friend who is a huge Vonnegut fan. In fact, it was mostly her copies of books I read, when we were roommates nearly a decade ago. (Unfortunately, she didn't have Mother Night, a book I've seen several mentions of in the last couple of days, so I've not read it. I did see the mostly panned movie starring Nick Nolte. I liked it.) Before that, I used to sit around with her and her other friends, listening to them talk about writers, in a way I'd never experienced, and they all loved Kurt Vonnegut. His humor and basic humanity is enormously appealing to a lot of readers. For me, I think it might be time to re-visit Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle, and seek out Mother Night and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.

Another friend used to enjoy telling the story of a high school friend of his who wrote Vonnegut a letter, asking him for advice on being a writer. Vonnegut wrote back to the effect of "Screw you! No one ever gave me any advice!" His friend thought this was fantastic and got the letter framed.

In recent years, with Bush and the terror war against Iraq, Vonnegut had of course re-emerged somewhat as a sort of Mark Twain-style anti-imperialist quipster. And he remained enormously entertaining as such. But I felt a certain unease watching his appearances or reading his columns and interviews in these recent years. He would make appropriately biting remarks about politics and bitterly cynical comments about human nature, all well and good, and often very funny. But then he'd talk about wishing he were dead, that everyone he'd loved was dead, that he wished he'd died in his house-fire, and he seemed to really mean it. He seemed to be bitterly pissed that he was still alive having to put up with the likes of people. I wasn't offended or anything, but I felt for the man. He might not have wanted my sympathy, and of course he thought it was great joke to speak of atheists in heaven, but I hope he's in a better place now, whatever that might mean. Rest Well.

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