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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, RIP

I heard on VPR this morning that Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday.

When I first read Vonnegut's novels in my college English classes, I wondered how I had gotten that far along in my life as a reader without having read them. There was just something so fresh, and funny and brave about his writing. One of my irreverent professors assigned his books in a couple of my classes. She called him "a vulgar sentimentalist," but she liked him, too.

I go back to  Slaughterhouse-Five often, and God Bless You Mr. Rosewater. Whenever I think about writing a novel, I wonder how I could make it more Kilgore Trout-ish . Because he's the opposite of literary pretension. And I once started working on a project I called "The Secret Dreams of Montana Wildhack." But I never got very far.

I haven't picked up a Vonnegut book in awhile, but I was reminded of him last week, when a DJ on 104.7 The Point made a crack about becoming unstuck in time, and mentioned Billy Pilgrim. I almost called up the station to say thanks for the unexpected literary allusion, but I was in the car and didn't have the station number on me.

I forgot about it by the time I got home. So it goes.

April 12, 2007 at 08:43 AM in House Rules | Permalink


On the comment about Vonnegut, I will make sure to tell Charlie he made your blog. He will get a big kick out of it.

Posted by: Chris Fells | Apr 12, 2007 10:00:31 AM

Was it Charlie? I don't know who it was, but he made me smile.

Posted by: cresmer | Apr 12, 2007 10:39:32 AM

Wasn't I. I wish I was so literate.
For future reference, tho: (877) FM Point.

Posted by: Charlie | Apr 12, 2007 12:08:33 PM

Kurt Vonnegut attended Cornell University in the early 1940s. Barton Hall, a large building enclosing 10 acres (at the time, the largest enclosed area in the country without posts supporting the roof) was the sight of Final Exams. During finals, the hall has hundreds of 8’ tables, with one student at each end, lined up and down the humongous floor. Signs divide the areas by class and faculty pace up and down the long aisles. Cornell is a uniquely stressed-out place during finals in any year, and with WWII anxiety, it was particularly bad. Two hours into a 4-hour Final Exam Session, a student stood up, shouted at the top of his lungs: “I can’t take it anymore….I quit!!” and ran out the door. They found out who it was - turned out the kid named Kurt Vonnegut wasn’t even registered in any of the classes taking exams that day. I loved reading his novels in the 70’s.

Posted by: Dan | Apr 12, 2007 6:31:48 PM

Glad to have reminded you of Vonnegut, Cathy. Sad to have say goodbye. I recall seeing him recently on "The Daily Show" and being struck by how old he'd become.

I devoured his books as a teenager. I found my way in through his science fiction, first reading his collection "Welcome to The Monkey House" (a great story in and of itself), and "Sirens of Titan" and "Cats Cradle" and then so much more. I've always thought of "Slaughterhouse Five" as science fiction, too.

And what's not to love about "Breakfast of Champions"? Reading it as an adolescent made me feel all subversive and cool ("This is an asshole..." heh, heh, hide it from Mom). I loved reading about something as simple as a trip down the inland waterway the way Vonnegut told it in "Wampeter, Foma and Granfalloons". That title's made-up words, from "Cat's Cradle", a great example of how he never took himself too seriously. Kinda like the way he showed up in Rodney Dangerfield's "Back to School", for example.

There ARE days I feel "unstuck in time"!
Thanks to KV, I know what's happening. Kind of.
We're poorer having lost his light, but richer for all his writing we have left as his legacy. Vonnegut lives!

Posted by: Mike | Apr 12, 2007 10:24:11 PM

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