God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut

April 12, 2007 by barbara

by barbara

Every now and then, a death makes me sadder than my tenuous connection to the deceased warrants. So it is with author Kurt Vonnegut, who died yesterday at the age of 84. Vonnegut made the front page of today's New York Times, which probably would have confounded him. The Times described him as a man whose "dark comic talent and urgent moral vision . . . caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation." Please read on.

I'm not going to attempt a literary analysis of Vonnegut's 14 novels nor his other writings. I'll leave that to those of you far more learned than I am. Read this and this for good profiles.

I haven't read all of Vonnegut's novels and sometimes I didn't fully understand what I did read. But his was a distinctive voice and world view, and he was altogether bold about putting it out there for us to digest. Suffice it to say, he was smart, wildly creative, deep, depressively pessimistic and oddly self-effacing. "I don't know how I did it," he was fond of saying, most likely sucking hard on an unfiltered cigarette as he chain-smoked his way through some 70 years of life. That's not what killed him, though. He fell a few weeks ago and permanently injured his fine mind.

I saw Vonnegut once. He came to Minnesota for a speaking gig at St. Kate's. The parallels drawn between him and Mark Twain were underscored that night. He was a medium-sized man with a rather unpleasant voice, a careless mustache, out-of-control eyebrows and wildly curling hair. He stood alone on the stage and filled it up. He talked about writing, of course.

One thing has stayed with me in all the intervening years since that night. Someone asked him if he ever wished he could deep-six some of his earlier writing, suggesting that perhaps it was an embarrassment because it was comparatively jejeune. Absolutely not, said Vonnegut. That writing reflected who he was and how he thought all those years before. To deny them would be to deny part of himself. That pops into my mind when I (no Vonnegut, she) consider purging my old stuff. And believe me, much of it is dreck. But Vonnegut taught me it's my dreck.

Anyway, I'm sorry the world has lost Kurt Vonnegut. It has been somehow comforting to walk this planet at the same time he did. I read his last book, A Man Without a Country, published in 2005. Imagine that! It is a rambling mlange of Vonnegut's musings, rants, laments, hopes, fears, sketches, poems. Classic Vonnegut, encapsulated in fewer than 150 pages.

Most of the news about Vonnegut today references a poem in that book, entitled "Requiem." Vonnegut wrote it:

The crucified planet Earth,
should it find a voice
and a sense of irony,
might now well say
of our abuse of it,
"Forgive them, Father,
They know not what they do."

The irony would be
that we know what
we are doing.

When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
perhaps
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
"It is done."
People did not like it here.

Cynical, I suppose, but spot on, if we are honest about where things stand this day. And then he wrote this:

No matter how corrupt, greedy and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful. If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC

It's a good book. He was an interesting guy. Let the music begin.

Posted in

Comments

perhansa (not verified) | April 12, 2007 - 10:18pm

KV was our modern Mark Twain. He and his neighbor, Joe Heller, wrote two of the best anti-war in the last half of the twentieth century. He was a lovable curmudgeon who faced up to a lot of tragedy in his life and transformed it into art. I will miss his voice and his art.

As long as we're quoting the departed (from A Man Without A Country):

"George W. Bush has gathered around him upper crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka Christians, plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PP's, the medical term for smart, persoanbale people who have no consciences."

For some reason the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But they demand...the Ten Commnadments be posted in public buildings. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. "Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break."

Sleep well Kurt.

»

David Rogde (not verified) | April 13, 2007 - 9:17am

http://homepage.mac.com/rogde/041207.jpg

»

Poet (not verified) | April 14, 2007 - 12:58pm

Reading the MSM trying to understand the importance of KV is kind of like watching Lawrence Welk trying to MC Woodstock--no matter how hard they try they still don't get it because they sold out long ago and KV never did.

»

Jimmy_Jimm (not verified) | October 16, 2008 - 11:50am

I could not even imagine that this old man was Kurt Vonnegut!!! I thought he should have been more serious and sarcastic at the same time... I have a few his novels to read. My friend (she is a girl) is his fan and even made tattoo on her hand with a few words from one his novel ;)

»

MOha (not verified) | April 3, 2009 - 5:23pm

?????? ???????? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ????? - ?????? ??? ??????? - ?????? ??? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ??????? ??????? - ?????? ???? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ????? - ?????? ??????? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ???? - ?????? ???? - ?????? ???? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ?????? ???????? - ?????? ????? - ?????? ????? - ?????? ????? - ?????? ??? - ?????? ??????? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ????? - ?????? 6 ?????? - ?????? ?????????? - ?????? ?????? ??????? - ?????? ??????? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ?????????? - ?????? ??????? - ?????? ????? ?????? - ?????? ????? - ?????? ???? ????? - ?????? ???? ????? - ?????? ????? - ?????? ???????? - ?????? ??? ????? - ?????? ??????? - ?????? ??????? - ?????? ????????? - ?????? ???????? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ??? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ????? - ?????? ??? ???? - ?????? ????? - ?????? ?????? ?????? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ????? - ?????? ???????? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ????? - ?????? ??? - ?????? ??? ??? - ?????? ??????? - ?????? ??? ?????? - ?????? ????? - ?????? ?? ??????? - ?????? ??????? - ????? ?????? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ???? - ?????? ??? - ?????? ??????? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ????? - ?????? ?????? - ?????? ??????? - ?????? ????? - ????? - ????? ?? ???????? - ????? ?? ???????? - ????? ?? ??? - ????? ?? ?????? - ????? ?? ???? - ????? ?? ??? - ????? ?? ??????? - ????? ?? ?????? - ????? ?? ????? - ????? ?? ?????? - ????? ?? ??????? - ????? ?? ????? - ????? - ?????? ??????? - ??????? ? ??????? - ????? ????? - ???????? ????? - ???? ??? - ???? ??? - ??? ???????? - ??? ???????? - ??? ????? - ??? ????? - ??? ????? - ??? ????? - ??? ?????? - ??? ?????? - ??? ??????? - ??? ??????? - ??? ????? - ??? ????? - ??? ?????? - ??? ?????? - ??? ???? - ????? ??? - ????? ???
????? ?????? ?????????
????? ?????? ????????
????? ???? ????? ??????
?????? ?????? ?????
????? ?????? ???????
????? ?????? ??? ??????
????? ?????? ??????
????? ?????? ????????
????? ??? ??????
??? ????
???? ??
???? ??
???? ??
???? ??
???? ??
???? ??

»