Vonnegut ... and so it goes...
One of my literary heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, has died at age 84. I never met the man, though I did hear him speak on two occasions, five years apart, when he gave the same lecture. Just once, though, after I moved to New York City, I saw him in the street near the Turtle Bay area of Midtown Manhattan where I worked, and because I never knew what I would do if I saw one of my heroes, I stood dead still and stared at him crossing Second Avenue. And our eyes met. He looked at me, and I looked at him. He knew I recognized him. And then the man who survived the firebombing of Dresden, who was a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany, who wrote many novels on the moral implications of science, who invented the Tralfamadorians, and Kilgore Trout, and Billy Pilgrim, and Bokononism, and Foma, and Wampeters, who was the honorary president of the American Humanist Association, the man who used science fantasy to address the horrors of science reality ... this great man looked back at me with total fear in his eyes that I was a stalker, turned at a sharp cut, and walked in the other direction, out of my life forever.
Here are the Top Ten reasons you should read a Kurt Vonnegut book immediately:
10. When the Tralfamadorians in "Slaughterhouse-Five" kidnap Billy Pilgrim and porn star Montana Wildhack and force them to mate as part of a science experiment on Tralfamador.
9. When the killer substance Ice 9 ravages the world and brings on the apocalypse in "Cat's Cradle."
8. When anarchy breaks out in "Player Piano" and the machinists are suddenly the only people who can lead in this completely automated society.
7. When Vonnegut appears as himself in "Breakfast of Champions" and gets attacked by a dog and his testicles get sucked up into his own body cavity.
6. When he is confronted by his fictional creation of Kilgore Trout in "Breakfast of Champions," who begs Vonnegut, as the Creator, to make him young again.
5. When Bokonon, an ex-U.S. serviceman, creates his own religion on a Caribbean Island, known as Bokononism in "Cat's Cradle."
4. When Vonnegut stops the action in "Slaughterhouse-Five" to make the audience aware that his protagonist has an enormous member. "You never know who'll get one," he writes.
3. When Vonnegut stops the action in "Breakfast of Champions" to make little pen doodles of everything from his sunglasses, to his anus, to hamburgers to an American flag to show things that represent life in America.
2. For his female protagonist in "Cat's Cradle," who says it is selfish to share love with just one person.
1. For offering this prayer for the dying ... "And So It Goes."
(Originally posted April 12, 2007)