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12 April 2007 @ 12:09 am
Kurt Vonnegut RIP  
I don't usually post personal stuff on this journal because I am a very private person and because I started this journal mostly just to have a place to put my fanfiction. But I do need to share something personal this evening.

For those that don't know, Kurt Vonnegut has passed away. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/12/books/12vonnegut.html?_r=2&hp&oref=slogin&oref=slogin)

Normally, I don't really get all emotional when a celebrity/writer/artist/etc passes away (unless I know them personally) but as some people on this list who know me, know that Mr. Vonnegut was one of my heroes. He and Bukowski have been tied in my heart and my imagination since I was in junior high school.

I own every single work of Vonnegut. I have read them over and over again until some of them have fallen apart. (First edition Cat's Cradle and Mother Night, I am looking at you too. Player Piano, you don't look so hot yourself).

This is a man who touched my very soul with his writing. No matter what mood I was in, where I was, nothing in my life could affect me when I had a dusty, beaten paperback by him in my hand. So many of those books now have yellowed pages and smell of the used bookstores where I bought them. And I always imagined that if, by some cosmic concidence I did happen to meet him, that is what he would smell of. Those old bookstores and yellowed pages.

I can remember one time my brother, took a copy of Slapstick with him to visit our relatives in South America. My little second cousin tore it up. I mean, she really tore it up. When my brother came home with that copy, pages missing, cover falling off, I cried for days. It was like someone ripped me apart. Strange relationship with books, I know.

I feel saddened because now it represents so much lost. The world has lost an amazing writer, a man who could put together a sentence in so few words, to flow and jump off the page. The world seems less for this loss.

I regret that I never got to meet the man before he died. One of the few regrets of my entire life. I had so much I wanted to say to him, show him, share with him. I just wanted to sit and have a cup of tea. Talk about his ideas. I wanted to pick his brain.

"I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center." Vonnegut said that. And it is one of the ways that I live my life. Here is to you, Mr. Vonnegut.

Recommended reading, one of his most famous short stories, Harrison Bergeron
beer_good_foamy on April 12th, 2007 09:20 am (UTC)
One of the few writers I know who comes close to what Vonnegut was doing in terms of cynical compassion and deadly serious hilarity is Thomas Pynchon - of course, he's so wilfully weird that most people never manage to penetrate that far into his books. And he's not exactly young either... shit... I'm going to have to watch all of my heroes die, aren't I?

"I am not dying," said Rumfoord. "I am merely taking my leave of the solar system. And I am not even doing that. In the grand, in the timeless, in the chronosynclastic infundibulated way of looking at things. I shall always be here. I shall always be wherever I've been." - The Sirens of Titan

Thank *deity or lack thereof as readers see fit* that books can't die.
Kellyxlivvielockex on April 12th, 2007 01:12 pm (UTC)
Oh Foam...I wanted to love you, I so did. And then you said that. LOL

Before I was with my husband, I dated a guy that thought that Pynchon was the ONLY writer that anyone ever needed to read. In my desperate attempt to impress this guy (He was a physics major, I ALWAYS felt stupid around him), I read every Pynchon I could.

I was so bored. I think I fell asleep about a dozen times during Crying of Lot 49 and that is one of his shortest books. The ego and pretention that Pynchon has comes threw screaming in his books. Pynchon doesn't just satirize life, he satirizes his reader to the point of, I feel, nearly insulting them. He purposely makes his books not as accesible because of his use of language, the way he structures his plots, etc. That is not a bad thing. It is just that his style is so...unique, I don't think he will ever be as mainstream as Vonnegut.

I think that is why I liked Vonnegut's style better. His was more at ease. His books, if anything, were free of pretense and could be more easily accesible to the masses. I don't know if they still do it but when I was going through the school system, Slaughter House Five was required reading. I doubt Pynchon would ever get any of his books to that distinction.

As I write this, I keep thinking of it like this. Pynchon is escargot. He is kind of slick, has a strong flavor, and really an acquired taste. Vonnegut is like a hamburger with a ton of toppings. Sloppy, comforting, and oh so good at any time.
beer_good_foamy on April 12th, 2007 01:31 pm (UTC)
Heh. Oh, absolutely, Pynchon is Zappa to Vonnegut's AC/DC, free jazz to Vonnegut's Miles Davis. (All of which I love.) What you say about acquired taste and purposely unaccessible is VERY true. I'm pretty sure he's happy to not be mainstream. Personally, I feel it's worth it, but I can definitely understand those who don't.

(Incidentally, thanks for the reminder; picked up some Palahniuk along with a couple Vonneguts I didn't own at the book store just now.)
Kellyxlivvielockex on April 12th, 2007 01:39 pm (UTC)
So true about him not wanting to be mainstream too. In the few things I have read about him, he comes across as very pretentious. As if he isn't writing for the masses but instead writing for this ideal of what one of his writers should be.

I have to admire people who can plow through and enjoy his books. I haven't checked if he has any essays. That might be a bit more easily digestable. I am always willing to give authors another shot. Hell, I couldn't finish Lullaby by Palahniuk but I still read him. Some authors thrive in one medium but not another. My brain is straining to think of something but I am failing right now.

Of course, while I will give you a free pass on Pynchon, if you say you love Heinlien, this friendship is over. LOL (Just kidding, but I am sure you knew that)

And which Palahniuk did you get, if I can be all nosy? I have Haunted around here but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.
beer_good_foamy on April 13th, 2007 04:27 am (UTC)
Hmmmm... I seem to recall reading Henlein. It would be weird if I hadn't, I had this period in my teens when I pretty much read the whole SF section of my local library from A to Z. Can't have left much of an impression, though. I'm generally not much into "pure" SF anyways.

Here's an exellent Pynchon essay IMO, on the role of genre fiction and other things: Is it OK to be a Luddite? It's got history, it's got monsters, it's even got literal Big Bads.

Oh, and it was indeed Haunted I bought. After first being reminded by you and then finding this blog entry, I couldn't NOT buy it. Palahniuk is one of those writers I've been circling around for years, because I have the feeling that once I read him, I'll have to read EVERYTHING by him...