April 12, 2007


So it goes

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
1922 - 2007

What five dead people would you want to have as dinner guests? The whole of that discussion is for another day, but with convergent emotions I can now say with confidence that Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. has made the list.

Vonnegut is one of those writers that writers like me (fanciful dreamers, I surmise) read and think, “Oh great genie in the bottle, give me this!” For a hippie wannabe born about 10 years too late, Slaughterhouse Five continued the subversive assault that my youthful skepticism, pessimism and cynicism had brought feebly against the Establishment. The man had what I would (admittedly, oxymoronically) call an even-tempered rage. Combined with a switchblade wit, he penned what are undoubtedly some of the most excellent novels of the late twentieth century (Modern Library ranks S5 18th on its list of the hundred best novels of 20th-century American literature). But in the midst of his irreverent skewering of hypocrites, he maintained a friendliness in his writing, expressing his own nuanced humanist views through sympathetic characters, as with two of my favorites, Billy Pilgrim and Eliot Rosewater.

I have more Vonnegut to read, that is certain. And I regret not having taken the opportunity to attend a lecture he gave within driving distance years ago. His craft was the second major influence in my life. The first puts me in total agreement with the cosmic view he expressed as his epitaph. “The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.”

Congratulations old man, you have become unstuck in time. You had a good run even if, as with countless others, the finish line seemed to come up a little too quick. Oh, and set a place for me, if you please, right next to our compadre Mr. Twain.
“If you really want to disappoint your parents, and don't have the nerve to be gay, go into the arts.”

“The good Earth, we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy.”

“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.”

“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.”

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”

“Life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information.”

“The universe is a big place, perhaps the biggest.”

“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?”

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" but with convergent emotions I can now say with confidence that Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. has made the list."

NOW you can? The guy had to DIE to get a lousy dinner invite? Yeesh, you're tough.
I just want to say for the record that I updated my Vonnegut post and re-titled it "So it goes" before I saw your post here. Last night I grabbed some of my KV paperbacks and was perusing them (which means I was flipping backwards through them, stopping at random pages and reading) and saw his signature line and thought, why the hell didn't I make that the title of my post? So I changed it this morning, then see you thought of it too. Not that it should be unexpected, given the amount of times he used the expression. Ah well. We both have posts of the same title. So it goes.
Joe - you're breezin' by the qualification of the opening question. Besides, I asked him to set a place for me and Twain, so I guess that means I have to be one of the dead persons. Shit.

Kos - I just want to say for the record that I left that silly jab at your site before I saw your comment here. Obviously GMTA, and that's to say that I'm sure we're not alone in our post titling.
And so it goes, indeed.

I find it disturbing that so many of my favorite authors have moved into the next realm. That either means I'm getting old or the new guys suck.

The mere presence of Michael Chabon must mean I'm not getting old.

Ook ook
You're right, I did miss the qualifier. I have to say that I wouldn't want ANY dead people as dinner guests. They smell funny.

So I'm a bigot. Sue me.
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