Thursday, April 12, 2007

In Memory of Kurt Vonnegut

I suppose that it's only right that I devote some words to the man whose imaginary phenomenon comprises the name of my blog. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. died yesterday, April 11th, at 84. I can't understand how I took for granted that he was still here for so long, nor should I be a bit surprised at how deeply I feel his passing.

When we lose people, it is often a very personal experience, one that is difficult to share with others, particularly if they haven't lost someone of similar importance. But Kurt Vonnegut was famous, perhaps to his chagrin, and so many people have known him and communed with him in the same way that I have: through his written work. It's all I know of him, but just the same, I loved him for it. There is much to say about his novels and stories, not all good, but I can find little to impugn the intentions behind them, and that is quite something to say about any writer.

This is the man who wrote about the end of the world being delivered in a mad dictator's casket ("Cat's Cradle") and of the Trafalmadorans, who can see the world in "four dimensions of time" and enjoy observing caged humans ("Slaughterhouse Five"). And, of course, of Chrono-Synclastic Infundibula, those elusive places in the universe where opposing truths could be reconciled ("Sirens of Titan"). He wrote fifteen novels or collections of stories and essays, but in not a single one of them I've read did he treat his subject matter with dignity. Gravity and profundity, sure, but never dignity. I'm not sure he believed in dignity, or at least found it in places most of us can't.

I wish I'd written him at some point to tell him that a quote from his novel helped me meet and marry Val - it was just a coincidence that she recognized my little away message, but perhaps not entirely. It's amazing to me that one person can become such an integral part of a collective consciousness that a few of his words can connect two otherwise unconnected people. I feel lucky to have had his words all these years, and to have been able to share my enthusiasm for them with so many of my friends.

This is not a fitting tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, nor is it expected or intended to be. Others who knew him better and can better express something of what he left behind can do that - but here is my own expression of grief and appreciation. Mr. Vonnegut, you inspired me to understand and describe my absurd little world as I saw it, and showed me that the most serious things in life may still be taken in with a shot of humor. For those things, I will always be grateful.

"And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."
- "Knowing What's Nice", an essay from In These Times (2003)


At 7:33 AM, Blogger Val S. said...

Aww, you even used the same quote as I did.

Very nice tribute to an amazing author. You're right, we did take it for granted that he was around for so long.

At 7:34 AM, Blogger Val S. said...

Oh yeah, and you're right, he totally did set us up! ;o)

At 11:06 PM, Anonymous Tana said...

Great work.


Post a Comment

<< Home