Thursday, April 12, 2007

So it goes: Kurt Vonnegut has died

KURT VONNEGUT, 1922-2007

I was in high school when I read "Slaughterhouse-Five," only a few years after it had been released. For someone weaned on Jack London and Ernest Hemingway and the frustrating oeuvre of classroom classics, Vonnegut seemed so ... refreshing. His prose was lyrical and loopy and ... fresh. I wanted more, and I quickly blasted through everything he'd written to that time: "Welcome to the Monkey House," "Breakfast of Champions," "The Sirens of Titan," "Cat's Cradle" and all the rest. I didn't know at the time that I was reading the best books he'd ever write, but I became an insatiable 15-year-old Vonnegut fan.

"Slaughterhouse-Five" remains one of the great influences on my writing life; the way he handles his non-linear narrative still impresses me like no other author, except John Fowles. And if one considers its commentary on the human tendency toward self-righteousness, and the need to speak of atrocity and injustice, then maybe Vonnegut secretly influenced my journalistic life, too. By God, I believed a man could fly through time.

In "Slaughterhouse-Five," Vonnegut also taught me the value of a simple, recurring word-moment. In his story, when he wrote about dying or any sort of transition from one state to another, he left us with one simple catchphrase: "So it goes."

Now, Vonnegut is dead. He died last night at age 84. Nothing lasts.

So it goes.

2 comments:

Chancelucky said...

Vonnegut was one of the first authors whose books I tracked down as a teenager. I agree. Slaughterhouse 5, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Cat's Cradle were his best. After Slapstick, I lost interest, but I realized very recently that my own fiction writing owes much more to Vonnegut than I realized. People accuse me of jumping around in time and it occured to me that Slaughterhouse Five had a lot to do with it (in a good way hopefully).

It's hard to think of him as a representative of a generation past.

Love, Rita said...

I never read any of Kurt Vonnegut's works, but as soon as I can--when I finish the notary public class I am taking--I am going to check out Slaghterhouse 5 out of the library and read it. I always meant to...