Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut is dead, long live Kurt Vonnegut

If there is one author who has shaped my outlook on the world, it's Kurt Vonnegut. No other author has been able to captivate me for longer, or stir my passion, or make me use my imagination as much, or open my eyes to the evils of the world, or turn me on to the finer things in life more than Vonnegut. For five years now I've read as much Vonnegut as I could get my hands on - something like 15 of his books, maybe more, many of them more than once. He has given us a way of thinking about time that is totally counter to popular notions - "All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you find that we are all, as I've said before, bugs in amber."

He gave us midgets and robots and psychopaths and gay hotel lounge singers named Bunny and crazy bag ladies who are actually billionaires and - lest we forget - Eliot Rosewater and Kilgore Trout. I never got bored reading anything by him, whether it was another bizarre novel or one of his sermons about how he had no antagonists because the world was mean enough. He believed in treating everyone equally, that every human being has inherent worth and should have equal opportunity to play a part in this frivolous stage production of existence.

But I won't be sad - it was my first reaction, but it won't be my last. The man lived 84 years, about 20 more than anyone, including (especially!) himself, thought he should. No, it wouldn't be in keeping with the spirit of his life and work. I will think of him whenever I have trouble traveling - "Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God" - or when I wonder if I should be enjoying life - "Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is' " - or when I think of an appropriate epitaph - "Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt."

I will think of him only in Tralfamadorian terms, which is how I think he would want it. “When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes’.”


At 10:39 PM, Blogger Gwen said...

normally, i hate you.

but i agree on everything here. everything everything. it's semi-silly but he totally changed my outlook on life. and the concept of time and moments was #1

At 7:15 PM, Blogger Sassafras H. Wilmington said...

gwen, you have the internet?


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