Thursday, April 12, 2007

Who will warn us about our big brains now?

Kurt Vonnegut, RIP. He spoke of sometimes wandering aimlessly around Gramercy, so I was always hoping to see him. It was my little secret, the only celebrity I've been keeping an eye out for.

Mr. Vonnegut really forwarded the arts of the novel and of storytelling. Remember when he, the author, confronted Kilgore Trout? Remember Kilgore Trout, the perennial incidental character who wrote science fiction stories for pornographic magazines? Remember Billy Pilgrim, unstuck in time? The end of Player Piano, when people started building machines? When the narrator became president, and made sure that everyone had a family to belong to? Ice 9, which when brought in to contact with water would crystallize it at room temperature -- this was so wonderful because it's so clearly something that no responsible person would want to exist, but the Generals of the Marine Corps really felt it would help the grunts cross rivers more easily.

My favorite Vonnegut book is Mother Night, about an American captured by an Israeli Death Squad for hosting an incendiary radio program in Nazi Germany. He'd been passing codes to the resistance during the show. The book is him in prison, awaiting his execution, wondering how much of that he'd like to get out. It's a brilliant study in guilt.

So, thanks for the books and all, Mr. Vonnegut.


Beth said...

And so it goes...

Rionn Fears Malechem said...

Yes, I was reflecting this morning that any discussion of Mr. Vonnegut's death should end with 'and so it goes.'

Rionn Fears Malechem said...

Jon Stewart ended his commemoration of Kurt Vonnegut tonight with 'and so it goes,' after using 'so it goes' to end a John Oliver bit earlier in the show.

Beth said...

And Colbert began his show with "Welcome to the Monkey House"

I just started reading TimeQuake (his last novel) and strangely in the prologue he has Kilgore Trout (his alter ego) dying at the age of 84.

It was comforting to read your post last night shortly after I heard the news. I was deeply saddened by this passing of one of the earliest influences in my life.