Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut

That's a helluva thing to wake up to...

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. passed away yesterday, at age 84.

He had a sharp and slightly skewed sense of humor, and his books are some of the most interesting and thought-provoking I have ever, or will ever read.
His most recent book, A Man Without a Country, I never read. Looking at the review it seemed like a book I wouldn't enjoy...too much politics, and not satiric enough to mask his leftist-ivory tower-blue state personal politics. Doesn't mean I don't enjoy his older novels- I don't hold his current politics against him... He was an excellent writer and he will be missed.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I'm looking at my bookshelf in my computer room/library and I see 5 books- 4 of which I got while still in high school...
I've always been a sucker for End-of-the-World stories, and Vonnegut wrote some great ones. Cat's Cradle, Breakfast of Champions are up there, brought down every few years to be re-read, along with Welcome to the Monkey House, a great series of well-written short stories, Galapagos, and Slapstick, which was given to me by my sister back when we were in high school.
Though I have read many more of his novels, these five I keep for their ability to be entertaining and interesting to read every time I pick them up.
There should be 6 titles there... The Sirens of Titan is out on loan to a co-worker...from 8 years ago. Probably won't get that one back...
Due to limited shelf space I can only keep the very best books I read, and it's hard for me to brush aside a good book and send it off the the second-hand book store, but these, in addition to select titles from Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, and Stephen King have permanent shelf space reserved.

An Internet urban legend, "Wear Sunscreen", a fake MIT commencement speech was attributed to him, which some people still think we was the source of.
(The entire story here)

Should you be inclined, pick up a Vonnegut book. Be entertained.
Think about his story lines.
That was his aim, that his readers should use their own brains to live their lives, not blindly follow someone else.

Just a couple Vonnegut quotes to round things out...

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.

Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.

And one for us bloggers to remember:

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?

TBG out-

PS- My current read? I'm still slogging through "The Gulag Archipelago" by Solzhenitsyn
It's killing me.


Luc said...

Thank for the suggestion. Will check out local library.
Reading Lisey's Story by SK. Slow to start but pretty good page turner.

Anonymous said...

Try - "One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich" - by Solzhenitsyn -much more friendly


Being There - by Jerzy Kozinksi - much more friendly - and enjoyable.

Let me know

Brother James

March Hare said...

Sounds like Kurt had a lot in common (thematically) with Heinlein.

But then, you probably knew that.

I think they also had several life experiences in common--weren't both in the Navy in WWII?

The Big Guy said...

Yes, Hare-
They were both in the armed services...
Heinlein in the Navy and Vonnegut in the Army...
Slaughterhouse-5 draws on KV's experience as a POW in Dresden in WWII.

Heinlein was far, far more conservative, with some Libertarian traits too...
Not sure how he'd have liked the situation in Iraq. Kinda hard to say. We know Vonnegut's take...

Oh well...