View Full Version : RIP Kurt Vonnegut
04-12-2007, 04:26 AM
I just heard this. Kind of sad. I think he's more influential in our collective comedy than he's given credit for. I certainly was influenced at a very young age when my dad handed me Slaughterhouse 5. Godspeed.
04-12-2007, 05:06 AM
I was really sick as a baby, and my dad (who was a writer) wrote Kurt Vonnegut for advice on how to write when real life is intervening like that. He and Kurt ended up having a correspondence until I was out of the hospital.
I've always felt connected to him, and unsurprisingly I love his books. I'm gonna go read Cat's Cradle again.
It's a shame, but I'm super glad to have a little pile of his works in my home. I agree that he's an amazing resource in comedy.
04-12-2007, 05:18 AM
A great light in our universe has gone out. I truly believe this.
04-12-2007, 06:54 AM
hell yes he's influential in comedy. and in literature, teaching, dealing with your shit, being a decent human being...
this is such a bummer. i'm thinking the guy probably wouldn't want people crying all over him, but still, it's sad.
04-12-2007, 07:28 AM
Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.
We'll miss you, old man.
04-12-2007, 12:25 PM
When I was in college we were putting up "Much Ado About Nothing" my freshman year. I played Don John.
On flyering day, I was with the group of people assigned to Smith College where Vonnegut taught occasionally. We decided to try to find his office. It was hidden away, way in the back of the library at Smith, and it was almost completely empty. There were some dog toys on the floor, and I think there might have been a chair. We put up a flyer on his office door, and hoped that maybe he would come. Every night we would look out into the crowd to see if he was there.
He never came.
Now there are 2 celebrity deaths I have cried over.
04-12-2007, 01:58 PM
No! Oh No.
He gave a guest lecture at my college. An old man with a full head of hair that hadn't receded a milimeter. He had a surprisingly high-ish squeaky voice that suited him. His tallness had a looming quality that made you want to stand in his shadow.
What an amazing combination of gentleness, toughness, cantankerousness, sardonicism, humanism, wickedness, pessimism and kindness. The Mark Twain of our age.
Google him and treat yourself to his myriad quotes. Revel in his gleefully unadorned attacks on everything from The Bush administration to our wasting of the planet. Take in his elegantly simple tips on writing and you'll see that he could've taught improv.
Re-read his best stuff (Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, Sirens Of Titan, Mother Night, Breakfast Of Champions) then write-it'll be damn hard not to ape his style. He burrows into the brain.
I hate not having him in the world. So it goes.
04-12-2007, 02:09 PM
I was hoping to go and see him speak on April 27th.
Damn, damn, damn, damn.
They announced a few days ago that he'd be unable to make it because of the injuries he sustained in his fall. His son was going to deliver the speech he'd written. I hope he's still going to do it.
I reread Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse 5 this past fall. Slaughterhouse 5 was as good as I'd remembered it being, but I had forgotten how good Cat's Cradle is.
If you haven't read any Vonnegut, do yourself a huge favor and go to the library or Borders and pick up a bunch of his books. You will speed through them and you will love it!
I'm not sure that anyone has mentioned Welcome to the Monkey House but that is one of my favorites.
04-12-2007, 02:29 PM
I'm not sure that anyone has mentioned Welcome to the Monkey House but that is one of my favorites.
One of the best books of all time. What a great collection of short stories.
04-12-2007, 02:31 PM
i am also a huge fan of monkey house. oh man, my heart hurts a little.
so it goes.
04-12-2007, 02:47 PM
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Here is his interview with John Stewart last year. So great.
04-12-2007, 02:53 PM
Monkey House is a great introduction to Vonnegut. It's the first work of his that I read when I was in college. One of my favorites is the one about how dogs are smarter than man.
04-12-2007, 02:59 PM
What a great writer. When I was in college I read the entire Vonnegut shelf in our library.
I think it's interesting how many of us have been touched intimately by his writing and influenced by his humor.
04-12-2007, 03:01 PM
He's probably still unstuck in time somewhere. :)
04-12-2007, 03:09 PM
I don't know how I can add to this, other than saying that he was a huge influence on me, less as a writer (though I second that it's impossible not to ape him after you've just read him), but more for his world view, and his creed--to be kind.
A friend of mine lives a block away from his house in Turtle Bay, and would casually stalk him (that is, walk a block out of his way every day just in case he popped out). he told me that he could see his office on the first floor. There was a sign that read, "This Door is to be kept CLOSED!!!" in big red letters on the door. I bet that room feels impossibly empty right now.
04-12-2007, 03:20 PM
He's probably chronicling real Martians now...
04-12-2007, 03:26 PM
This is truly very sad. A great author and man.
He's probably beginning the first stages of decomposition...
This was my favorite author.
And I think Jon Stewart should have given him the whole damn show. They cut him off just when he started rolling. Where's the respect?
04-12-2007, 04:55 PM
NEW YORK - Kurt Vonnegut mixed the bitter and funny with a touch of the profound in books such as "Slaughterhouse-Five," "Cat's Cradle," and "Hocus Pocus."
Vonnegut, regarded by many critics as a key influence in shaping 20th-century American literature, died Wednesday at 84. He suffered brain injuries after a recent fall at his Manhattan home, said his wife, photographer Jill Krementz.
Vonnegut's more than a dozen books, short stories, essays and plays contained elements of social commentary, science fiction and autobiography.
"He was sort of like nobody else," said fellow author Gore Vidal. "Kurt was never dull."
A self-described religious skeptic and freethinking humanist, Vonnegut used protagonists such as Billy Pilgrim and Eliot Rosewater as transparent vehicles for his points of view.
He lectured regularly, exhorting audiences to think for themselves and delighting in barbed commentary against the institutions he felt were dehumanizing people.
"He was a man who combined a wicked sense of humor and sort of steady moral compass, who was always sort of looking at the big picture of the things that were most important," said Joel Bleifuss, editor of In These Times, a liberal magazine based in Chicago that featured Vonnegut articles.
Some of Vonnegut's books were banned and burned for suspected obscenity. He took on censorship as an active member of the PEN writers' aid group and the American Civil Liberties Union (http://search.news.yahoo.com/search/news/?p=American+Civil+Liberties+Union).
The American Humanist Association, which promotes individual freedom, rational thought and scientific skepticism, made him its honorary president.
Vonnegut said the villains in his books were never individuals, but culture, society and history, which he said were making a mess of the planet.
"I like to say that the 51st state is the state of denial," he told The Associated Press in 2005. "It's as though a huge comet were heading for us and nobody wants to talk about it. We're just about to run out of petroleum and there's nothing to replace it."
Despite his commercial success, Vonnegut battled depression throughout his life, and in 1984, he attempted suicide with pills and alcohol, joking later about how he botched the job.
"I will say anything to be funny, often in the most horrible situations," Vonnegut, whose watery, heavy-lidded eyes and unruly hair made him seem to be in existential pain, once told a gathering of psychiatrists.
Vonnegut was born on Nov. 11, 1922, in Indianapolis, and studied chemistry at Cornell University before joining the Army. His mother killed herself just before he left for Germany during World War II, where he was quickly taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge. He was being held in Dresden when Allied bombs firebombed the city.
"The firebombing of Dresden explains absolutely nothing about why I write what I write and am what I am," Vonnegut wrote in "Fates Worse Than Death," his 1991 autobiography of sorts.
But he spent 23 years struggling to write about the ordeal, which he survived by huddling with other POW's inside an underground meat locker labeled slaughterhouse-five.
The novel that emerged, in which Pvt. Pilgrim is transported from Dresden by time-traveling aliens, was published at the height of the Vietnam War, and solidified his reputation as an iconoclast.
After World War II, he reported for Chicago's City News Bureau, then did public relations for General Electric, a job he loathed. He wrote his first novel, "Player Piano," in 1951, followed by "The Sirens of Titan," "Canary in a Cat House" and "Mother Night," making ends meet by selling Saabs on Cape Cod.
Critics ignored him at first, then denigrated his deliberately bizarre stories and disjointed plots as haphazardly written science fiction. But his novels became cult classics, especially "Cat's Cradle" in 1963, in which scientists create "ice-nine," a crystal that turns water solid and destroys the earth.
He retired from novel writing in his later years, but continued to publish short articles. He had a best-seller in 2005 with "A Man Without a Country," a collection of his nonfiction, including jabs at the Bush administration ("upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography") and the uncertain future of the planet.
He called the book's success "a nice glass of champagne at the end of a life."
Vonnegut, who had homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons in New York, adopted his sister's three young children after she died. He also had three children of his own with his first wife, Jane Marie Cox, and later adopted a daughter, Lily, with his second wife, Krementz.
Vonnegut once said that of all the ways to die, he'd prefer to go out in an airplane crash on the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. He often joked about the difficulties of old age.
"When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life; old age is more like a semicolon," Vonnegut told the AP. "My father, like Hemingway, was a gun nut and was very unhappy late in life. But he was proud of not committing suicide. And I'll do the same, so as not to set a bad example for my children."
My heart ached when I read the news last night.
At the very least, Kurt is up in heaven now (http://www.inthesetimes.com/comments.php?id=427_0_1_0_C).
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