Thursday, April 12, 2007

RIP Kurt

If you haven't already heard, Kurt Vonnegut died today at the tender age of 84.

While Mr Vonnegut and I certainly didn't see eye-to-eye on many contemporary issues, I always held him in high regard for getting me heavly into reading (particularly contemporary literature).

In highschool I took AP English because I heard that you didn't have to learn English grammar if you made it in. All four years of highschool we were supposed to be reading books, but I liked to play a little game I called "Don't read the book and see if you can still pass", which I really regret -- I missed out on some good reading. Finally in my senior year I decided to go ahead and actually read the books assigned, the first of which was The Great Gatsby. "Woe", I thought. "This is pretty good shit. Maybe I'll read the next one too." The second book assigned was Slaughterhouse 5, and I was an instant Vonnegut fan.

I met a Cuban fellow by the name of Jose, who is the father of my cousin's ex-girlfriend. Jose is the most hyper-intelligent, least formally educated person I'd ever met (and probably have ever met). The first time I met him, I was taking a nap on his couch waiting for my cousin to wake me up. Unbeknownest to me, my cousin had left me there in a strange house owned by people who I didn't know. Anyway, I woke up and Jose was putting weed into a pipe and working on a painting about Princess Diana's death. It was a work in progress, and looked like a 3rd grader had made it. "Do you want some?", He asked, motioning to his pipe. "No thanks," I said, "I'm joining the Marines in 1 week." So we talked for a bit, and I noticed he had some Vonnegut books on his shelf. "I love Kurt Vonnegut," I proclaimed, and Jose stopped what he was doing and looked at me. "One time I was talking to someone on the phone, and he referred to Kurt Vonnegut as 'mind candy'. Mind candy!", said Jose in his accented Cubano English. "Do you know what I said to him, Paully?" he asked. I waited a moment for his response.

"I said, 'You know what? Fuck you.'", he plainly stated, punctuating it with a triumphant hit off his pipe, and continued painting a flaming car with blood flying out of the windows.

For some reason I always thought Mr. Vonnegut would have gotten a kick out of that -- maybe even would have found it strangely appropriate.

Had to be there I guess.

RIP Kurt.


Blogger Hammer said...

The folks with a thirst for knowledge and learning who lack degrees and other official credentials are often the most fascinating you'll ever run across. A handful are complete Rain Man/unabomber nutjobs, but most are real Renaissance types.

And in my experience at least, these people often have demonstrably low tolerance for bullshit, which of course makes them ripe for becoming Vonnegut fans.

I haven't real all his stuff, but I find myself going back to "Cat's Cradle" a lot, and I really enjoyed "Timequake."

12:34 AM  
Blogger cyberninja said...

I wrote a comment last night but I don't see it on here now. Must've pushed "preview" instead of "publish" again, because all the writing for the buttons and stuff is in Thai and I get confused (orange = publish, I got it now).

So anyway I spoke with Kurt Vonngeut once. Well, in reality he spoke at me. In college at UNI (as head RA for the quad) I was in charge of getting some RAs together to prepare the room he was going to speak in at the auditorium. As we were setting up and finishing he came in with his school-appointed handler and begrudgingly shook all our hands (5 of us total) as he smoked about 12 cigarettes in 20 minutes and started to wax eloquent about "the times".

We all stood there and listened to him, as even though I had never read Vonnegut I knew he was an important writer so didn't want to miss out on any tidbits of wisdom he might impart. Unfortunately, his half-hour old-man tirade mostly just involved how much of a hypocrite he felt Thomas Jefferson was (for his whole slave policy) and how us kids nowadays growing up with our nintendos aren't going to be able to function in the real world.

Basically the gist I got was that Vonnegut was just a grumpy asshole, as I was a big fan of the T.J. (along with G.W.) and the N.E.S., and he insulted both endlessly.

I never ended up reading any of his stuff. I probably should. Maybe his endless cynicism comes out better in writing.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous nedric said...

I always found the following Vonnegut quip from a Bill Moyers "Now" interview to be simply correct:

Being born is a terrible thing. Why would you ever think it is a good thing to subject another person to it?

10:11 AM  
Blogger Hoss said...

I thought Vonnegut was a prick. I liked Slaughterhouse 5 okay, but I'm never as impressed with some of the big writers as I think I'm supposed to be. Hemingway's another one, good storyteller, shitty writer in my humble opinion. But if Kurt got you into reading it's all good.

11:06 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

I've pretty much heard the same thing about Kurt -- that he was a bitter man and a mighty curmudgeon. Luckily I never actually met him, because it may have soured me to his books.

He was what he was I guess, and I enjoyed reading his books. I didn't even really read into the symbolism and whatnot. I just enjoyed reading 'em.

12:12 AM  
Anonymous stu said...

My aunt worked for this local artsy newpaper (the kind of highbrow rag that every city has, where you can get lit reviews, art review, and then the classifieds are # for hookers and escorts)

anyway, my aunt along with other writers were going to interview Kurt for their little paper. He started bitching about how boring and similar all the interviews he does, and wished someone would mix it up. So they took him to one of hte local strip clubs, got a table right near sniffers row and did the interview there while trying to buy him lap dances. The interview went well and a good time was had by all(well probably not my radical feminist aunt) After that I had to race out and read one of his books. That and he spents some time in Iowa City with the writers workshop

2:38 AM  

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