Saturday, April 14, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut: From An Admirer In A Distant Shore

I was really disheartened to hear of the demise of Kurt Vonnegut who was my idol in the sixties when I was pursuing a degree in English Literature. At that time he was not too popular in school because his writing style was not easily appreciated and considered by some as being forcedly irreverent. A relentless iconoclast, he surely was what he pretended to be, to paraphrase one of his memorable lines. Also, it was thought at that time that he was merely a sci-fi writer when science fiction was categorized just a little better than pulp fiction…more allied to Mills and Boon and Marvel Comic books. It was really a shame that some people missed out on the acerbic satire, the ingenious fusion of technical words and prose into refreshing literature and the rich portraiture of the denizens that made up Vonnegut’s menagerie.

I find it doubly troubling that I had forsaken the work of the genius. I have idolized him in my adolescence but had to abandon him as I pursued the common struggle of providing for the family at the exclusion of everything else. Now, after more than thirty years of serving false gods and getting just rewards for it I now have the luxury of revisiting the object of my neglected affection, the written word, a terrain in which , to my mind, Vonnegut dominated.

I am not even halfway going through a dozen of his books in my library when he all of a sudden just banged and quit with a damaged brain. I was taking my time reading and enjoying his Breakfast of Champions, Slaughter House Five, Cat’s Cradle, Mother Night…safe in the thought despite his age he was very much with us not giving thought that this promethean figure was mortal. I should take solace with one of my favorite Vonnegutian lines…”and so it goes”, a few words which captures his view of people, the human condition and of life generally. It so eloquently expresses his vigorous contempt and disdainful apathy towards the events prevalent during his prolific writing years. “and so it goes” an emphatic but subtle expression of indifference. Post Vietnam writers would find themselves preempted by the sentiments expressed by this insightful writer of Slaughter House Five which sprung from the deep impressions that the fire bombing of Dresden had etched in him.

I do not know if he is now happy having arrived at his invented place of “chronosyncratic infandibulum” where all truths fit nicely together and/or to be with Hemingway’s misplaced dessicated leopard in the slopes of Kilimanjaro or would he have preferred to keep slaying gorgons that continue to persist in our midst.

Well, Kurt, you will be missed finally.


H said...

"So it goes" is one of my favourite lines ever too.

But there's hope in that he's united with his sister, who he loved dearly, and wrote of in Lonesome no more.

NanNan said...

Wonderful tribute to Kurt-- who also had significant inluence on my son--- the idea of Karass--I too read all his books after my son died---- and had inscribed a quotation of Kurt's on my son's headstone. I enjoyed reading your reflections and depth of understanding-- sadly mine came too late---

wayfarer said...

Thanks for stopping by H.


wayfarer said...

Understanding Vonnegut is all that matters. Yours came late while mine was a better appreciation upon a revisit.