Thursday, April 12, 2007

Avatque Vale, Kurt Vonnegut


I'm trying not to cry; Kurt Vonnegut is gone. Oh, shit. I am crying. This man changed my life, my perspective. He offered visions of things I'd never seen before but applied values to them that I shared. He was absurd, he was satiricle, he was obscene, he was creative, he was cranky, he was funny. The world will be a much more mundane place without him.
I discovered his writing in my first quarter of my first year in college. I was hesitant at first to read his most famous book called Slaughterhouse Five, since I am highly squeamish and overly sensitive to violence. So I started with Slapstick instead. I'd never read anything like it. I had spent most of my time in high school reading run-of-the mill fantasy books and some science fiction, but this book pushed me into an absurd world that I loved. It opened up my mind to the vast limitlessness of the imagination and the great value of the whimsical.
I read every book of his I could get my hands on. At the same time, I began reading John Irving's works with the same obsession, only to later find out that Vonnegut was Irving's graduate school advisor when they were both at University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop. I loved the stories of them hanging out together that I read in John Irving's memoirs. I would have loved to have had the chance to listen in on a conversation between those two.
Goodbye, Kurt Vonnegut. We grieve for you today. We have lost your voice of reason, your moral outrage, your sense of humor, your lovely wrinkly face, your imagination, your grasp of the ironic, your vision, your heart, and your wisdom. Thank you for all you have given us; God willing, we will preserve it.
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Hi-ho.
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15 comments:

  1. I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read any of his work although I do know who he is.

    On CBC this morning they aired part of an interview with him from last year. He sounded so excellent and smart! And the interviewer said that at the end, when she thanked him, he said, Go jump in a lake.

    I love it!

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  2. That's wonderful! I'll have to remember and use that one.

    My favorite insult of his is this one:

    "Go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut! Go take a flying fuck at the moooooon!"

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  3. They were running clips of his past interviews on NPR this morning on my way to work. My favorite quote was about how the truth can be powerful stuff.

    (ooh! They have the story up at NPR.org, and I found exactly the quote I was trying to remember.)

    "I think it had not only freed me, I think it freed writers," he said, "because the Vietnam War made our leadership and our motives so scruffy and essentially stupid that we could finally talk about something bad that we did to the worst people imaginable, the Nazis, and what I saw, what I had to report, made war look so ugly. You know, the truth can be really powerful stuff."

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  4. “Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.” Billy's Epitaph

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  5. I've never read him either. I think it's about time I start...

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  6. I've never read any of his books, just the short story "Harrison Bergeron," which I love. There are so many classics that I keep "meaning to" read and never get around to. Guess it's about time...

    "Go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut?" That's fantastic.

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  7. Taking a flying fuck at a rolling donut is what put me in my current predicament.

    ;)

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  8. Tanya, we MUST know more about this "predicament" of which you speak.

    I remember when I first got a video camera (or borrowed one), Flann: I climbed up on the roof and you spelled out "Hi-ho" in toilet paper in my mom's backyard. Then in sign language you said, "I love you, Kurt!"

    I want Billy's epitaph on MY grave... but I'm too crabby for it.

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  10. Big Orange, I'm hurt and crushed that you haven't wasted your whole day reading MY blog, especially since I'm CONSTANTLY on your blog...sigh...my 'predicament' is just that I'm hosting a tapeworm (baby) and due in 9 weeks.

    And Flannery, sorry that I have to use your comments section for my own stupidities.

    :)

    That was me deleting my comment, because I forgot to add to it. (Tanya hanging her head in shame and despair) ;)

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  11. I was hoping that my professor would mention him in class tonight, but he didn't. It's a real shame. I discovered that the girl who sits in front of me never heard of him. If I were teaching the class I would have said SOMETHING and read an excerpt from one of his books.

    At least he lived a long life.

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  12. my only frame of reference is Cat's Cradle, but I did love his cameo in Back To School:

    "And another thing, Vonnegut; I'm stopping payment on that check!"

    "Fuck me? Can you read lips, Vonnegut? FUCK YOU!"

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  13. Fantastic post. What a wonderful man to celebrate.

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  14. He was brilliant and will be missed by so many. Nice post Flannery.

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  15. I need to read more of his stuff, too. I've only read "Harrison Bergeron" also.

    Great post, Flannery.

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