Thursday, April 12, 2007

Goodbye Blue Monday

Kurt Vonnegut is dead.

He gave up writing novels a few years back, when it seemed he had said what he wanted to say. But he left us beautiful books like Cat's Cradle and Breakfast of Champions. When I was a completist teenager (as opposed to the obsessive completist thirties person I am now), I would obsessively eye my Vonnegut collection and think to myself "I only need Happy Birthday, Wanda June. Why don't I own that?" Thinking that I had to own every little word, even if it meant there would be no more books to discover, no new words.

I read his work slavishly, and I hope some of the wisdom within those pages sunk in somehow.

Vonnegut's writing was morose and melancholy but, like Twain, he seemed to believe in the secret goodness of people. There were always transcendent moments of beauty in his short, blurby style, like the moment that Circe Berman sees Rabo Karabekian's secret for the first time in Bluebeard. I won't ruin it for you.

And there was a large sense of our own ridiculousness. His often glib, "Go take a flying f*ck at the moon" philosophy betrayed a conscience that was deeply concerned with man, and especially with America. His outrage at the path of America these last years was a much-needed voice. While he seemed to say that all men are just animals, just living out lives alone, he was warning us against the greedy and dangerous men who are harming America so greatly, and the apathy with which the country is letting it happen.

Hopefully, old Kurt hasn't come unstuck in time, and isn't being bothered reliving the past.

Let's remember him with the Tralfamadorian greeting from Slaughterhouse Five:

"Hello. Farewell.

Hello. Farewell."

So it goes.


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