kurt vonnegut, rip

One of my favorite authors in high school was Kurt Vonnegut, who passed away a couple of weeks back.  I’ve heard quite a few people say that he helped them make sense of an absurd world.

Kurt Vonnegut helped me embrace the absurdity in the world rather than make sense of it.  I think that’s an important lesson, because some things just don’t make much sense, do they?

This picture was lifted from the New York Times.

At one time I could claim to have read all of his published novels.  I can now claim to have read and forgotten much of what’s in his published novels, but think it’s time to dust some of them off and give them a try again.  I watched the film adaptation of his book Mother Night this past Friday – a fairly good film in its own right.  I cannot tell you whether it’s true to the book.  I enjoyed it for the same reason I remember enjoying the rest of his work – raucous comedy, unlikely people finding themselves in absurd situations, and a landscape thick with anti-heroes.  And always tenderness and an appreciation for human beings as wonderful and flawed creatures.

I had the good fortune to see him speak at the University of Washington about eleven or twelve years ago.  The first 30 minutes or so were a rambling series of stories, with no discernable relationship to one another.  Something about buying envelopes, having a secret crush on a local store clerk, and a bunch of other stuff I no longer remember.  Suddenly just as I thought he was going to either launch into another semi-coherent story, he tied everything up into a nice, neat package reminding us to do plenty of "farting around" (his words) and having fun, because that’s why we’re here.  Then he said "I’m outta here", and walked off.

By the way, the biggest laugh of the night was when Mr. Vonnegut talked about his eulogy for Isaac Asimov, his predecessor as President of the American Society of Humanists.  He cleared his throat and said solemnly "Isaac is in heaven now …".

If you’re interested, you can read some of Mr. Vonnegut’s columns in In These Times here.  The New York Times also has a nice index of Vonnegut writings, reviews, and resources here.

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