Kurt Vonnegut, author of retardedly popular novels (and for good reason) “Slaughterhouse Five,” “Cat’s Cradle,” “Godbless You Mr. Rosewater” and “Breakfast of Champions” died yesterday at the tender age of 84. Known for his abusrdity and satirical novels, all in all he published his first novel in 1952 at age 30 and never looked back. He attended Cornell University, fought in World War II and survived the fire bombings of Dresden as a POW.
The Washington Post has a fantastic obituary on the man, that deals with his place in literary history, his philosphies on life, his tragic attempts to committ suicide in 1985 and the last few years of his life after he retired from writing. His hometown of Indianapolis named 2007 “The Year of Vonnegut.”
On a personal note, I saw Mr. Vonnegut speak at Syracuse my junior year, coulda been my sophomore year. I don’t remember which, but I’ll never forget his lecture. It was one of the most funny, life affirming and beautiful things I’ve ever heard. He discussed, while using a bar graph, how “Hamlet” was the greatest story ever written simple because nothing good or bad ever happens. It was a zero-sum story, unlike say, Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” or Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” or Nabokov’s “Lolita.”
He talked about the simple things we take for granted like glasses of fresh lemonade, sitting under shady trees in the summer or the mystical beauty of the dots on Hindi women’s foreheads. Though he wasn’t the author of the internet phenomena “Always use Sunscreen” it was clear to me after hearing him that night that he could and probably should have been. It seemed to me there was no other person on this planet who loved life more or loved to celebrate the tiny moments and simple pleasure that make life worth living.
There are of course, people who were bigger fans of his novels, I always felt they were too smart for me. Half the time I didn’t really understand what was going on, but I always appreciated the bizarreness of them and the humor. He was one of the first novelists I read to use humor and that was always a welcomed change of pace.
Cheers, Mr. Vonnegut! You will be missed.