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In Memoriam: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
Originally Posted at "Bayside and Beyond" on April 17, 2007
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was one of America's gifts.
Even his name on the cover of so many books was self-disclosing. How many choose to be identified as a Junior? Slaughterhouse-Five which catapulted Vonnegut into the limelight did so in large part because it was so very much based on provocative personal experiences.
I have read almost all his books. The one I never made it through is Player Piano. Although I attempted several times with a paperback copy borrowed from college pal Dave Irwin. I believe Dave read it. I hope I returned it to him, as I do not have it now. Later I learned this was Vonnegut's first novel, dating from 1952. It was too heavy, too bleak.
Vonnegut was all the rage when I attended college. My first exposure to his writing was in a class I took because it met the literature requirement. The course was called Comp Lit 357 Fantasy and Science Fiction. I got 3 credits for reading science fiction and fantasy. That itself seems like fantasy. Actually it was also grueling with more than a book to read a week required. The Sirens of Titan was pure joy. Professor Fannie LeMoine brought in a guest lecturer to give us the low down on this novel that loops on itself. At least that's my recollection of the gist of his lecture. I've reread this novel and will again.
Breakfast of Champions is one of the easiest reads ever. I've loaned it out and recommended it many times. It makes you think and that's why I like it so much. I believe everyone that reads the book actually learns how to think better. That's high praise, isn't it?
Even though Mr. Vonnegut swore off writing novels around 1988 or so he continued to write and I continued to read his work.
Timequake (published in 1996), a novel, is based on a cool premise. What if everyone was mentally jerked back a decade or so having to watch his or her life unfold again moment by moment? That's right just watch, no actual participation. It seems like a prescription for insanity and in the novel for some it was.
Most recently I read A Man Without A Country (published in 2005). This is a book of essays. This is a work as dark as Player Piano but is easy to read. "Jr." is long gone from the dust jackets. The author's moniker is simply "Kurt Vonnegut." Like The Sirens of Titan wraps on itself, Mr. Vonnegut's literary output (i.e. his life work) emulates that fiction. And although he is most unhappy with the current direction of our country, he wishes us all the best in moving beyond.
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