Thursday, April 12, 2007

God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

One of my literary heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, died yesterday at the age of 84. In that ubiquitous question, “In all of history, what five people would you like to assemble for dinner,” Kurt Vonnegut would be at my table, with Voltaire and Swift and others. But between Voltaire’s French and Swift’s “ye olde(ish) English,” Vonnegut would be the only person I could actually speak with… and that would suit me just fine.

I remember the first time I read “Breakfast of Champions.” I still recall the sense of amazement I had, thinking, “I didn’t even know that books could be written this way!”

From that book, to “Cat’s Cradle,” “Slaughterhouse Five,” “God Bless You Mr. Rosewater,” and “Hocus Pocus” all the way through to “A Man Without a Country,” I thought that every time I read Vonnegut’s work.

I read a quote from him in an Associated Press obituary printed in today’s paper: “(My goal is to) catch people before they become generals and senators and presidents" and "poison their minds with humanity. Encourage them to make a better world.”

I know that he made my world a better place.

It’s always a little strange trying to figure out how you mourn an individual whom you have never met. It’s difficult enough when it is someone close to you. For now, I think I’ll pick up my tattered copy of “Breakfast of Champions,” read a little, and try a little harder to make a better world.


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