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A tribute to Kurt Vonnegut

April 12, 2007

Isn’t it strange to know that everyone is going to die and yet when it happens, one by one by one, we never cease to be surprised or to initially respond with denial?  Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday.  I meet this fact with both a shock and denial yet I hear his voice, so it goes.

Kurt VonnegutI found Kurt Vonnegut and his work in 9th grade, thanks to the wonderful book Dance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers.  There was a reference or quote that intrigued me, and I immediately picked up the first Vonnegut I could find after finishing the Chambers book.

Kurt Vonnegut’s writing captivated me from the first sentence I read.  He’s a pithy, sarcastic writer who reveals a vast awareness and thoughtfulness about humanity.  I read everything I could find – Cat’s Cradle (my favorite), Slapstick, Bluebeard, Mother Night, Galapagos, and of course Slaughterhouse-Five….I also read everything I could about him and decided that I’d major in Anthropology at the University of Chicago some day to follow in his footsteps.  (I was accepted but didn’t go, and to this day I wonder what would have happened if I went there.)  I spread the Vonnegut word far and wide to all my friends, giving all of his books except those given to me.

Slaughterhouse-Five is the one you should read if you find yourself here without having explored any of Vonnegut’s work.  In light of our situation in Iraq it is a quite poignant read.  It’s also among the most frequently banned books in American literature.  This is because there are sentences like, “The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of the zipper on the fly of God Almighty.”  ZZZZZZHHHIP!
Some good quotes:
“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”

“Vietnam was an exercise in mistaken idealism; Iraq in cynical money-making. And there’s no optimism or idealism now — Americans are tired of knowledge. Our leaders, the C-students from Yale, know this. We’re proud of being ignorant; that leaves virtue at our core. We aren’t frazzled by knowledge like foreigners, so we can be trusted.”  Ouch.

Those of you who know me will see that this applies to me: “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”

Bye, Kurt. Off you go to the mustard gas and roses.  You were great.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2007 9:24 pm

    Great… Yes he was!!

  2. April 18, 2007 4:36 pm

    Hi StumptownGirl- I stumbled upon your website somehow and came across your tribute to Vonnegut. Of all the tributes I read, yours is the most accurate and moving. Kudos!

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