Friday, April 13, 2007

God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

"Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time."

My favorite author of all time, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., died on April 11th in Manhattan. He was 84. We was a humanist and a humorist of the highest order. He had fallen at his Manhattan home several weeks prior an suffered irreversible brain injury. So it goes.

He was most famous for his novel Slaughterhouse-Five, but I've read and treasured all of his 14 plus novels. Cat's Cradle, Mother Night, Breakfast of Champions and The Sirens of Titan are among my favorites. If you haven't read any of his novels, do yourself a favor and pick one up. They are a pure delight in every way to read.

My favorite quote from Mother Night is "we are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be."

And from The Books of Bokonon in Cat's Cradle:

Tiger got to hunt,
Bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder why, why, why?

Tiger got to sleep,
Bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand

His epitaph for the human race was "we could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap." And for himself:

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:


God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut.


Fred Schiller said...

When I was in high school there were a bunch of creepy guys who reveled in the writings of Kurt Vonnegut. Wait, that’s not right. They were a nice enough group of fellows, it’s just that they reveled in Vonnegut to a creepy degree.

Whichever way it was, and through no fault of his own, Vonnegut became creepy by association.

Part of the problem stemmed from no one being able to describe what type/kind of author Vonnegut was in thirty words or less. Was he a poet? A sci-fi writer? Was it hard sci-fi or soft? Was he a futurist? A humorist? Did he write sci-fi mixed with fantasy, or perhaps the other way around? Did he have his own religion like that L. Ron Hubbard? Are there weekly meetings?

As a result of him not having an easy handle, and my regrettable fear of the unknown, I’ve always stayed away.

But now it’s some thirty years later. The creepy FOV (Friends of Vonnegut) from high school are undoubtedly scattered across the map, and I find myself with more of an open mind than I possessed in high school. I guess it’s high time I gave Vonnegut the fair shake he deserves.

Whenever I introduce someone to an author they’ve never read, there’s a certain amount of envy on my part that they get to experience all the books and stories for the first time. Of course there’s a lot to be said for an eleventh or seventeenth reading.

I’ll let you know what I think of Kurt Vonnegut, Aaron. Either I’ll drop you an email or I’ll see you at the weekly meetings.


Aaron Sowd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron Sowd said...

red! You have to pick up one of his books! Start with Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five or The Sirens of Titan.

Cat's Cradle was the first one I read and it hooked me. The Sirens of Titan is more of a sci fi book, about free will and human history. His work defies genre labels, but don't let that scare you! He struggled to escape the sci fi label his entire career. He wrote "I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled 'science fiction' ever since, and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal."

He's a genius in my estimation, he was opposed to organized religion his whole life. One of my favorite quotes is "She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing."

So comparing him to L. Ron Hubbard is funny, since he lampoons hack sci fi writers with his charctaer Kilgore Trout and organized religon with Bokononism.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go read Dianetics!