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And So It Goes...

category_bug_journal2.gif The great novelist, essayist, satirist and humanist, Kurt Vonnegut, tried to commit suicide in 1984. He said at least once that smoking Pall Mall cigarettes was just “a classy way of committing suicide.” His mother committed suicide.

In August of 2006, Mr. Vonnegut told a reporter he had stalled on the writing of a new novel titled If God Were Alive Today:

"I've given up on it…It won't happen...” he said. “The Army kept me on because I could type, so I was typing other people's discharges and stuff. And my feeling was, 'Please, I've done everything I was supposed to do. Can I go home now?' That's what I feel right now. I've written books. Lots of them. Please, I've done everything I'm supposed to do. Can I go home now?"
- Rolling Stone, 13 August 2006

Last night, having been wakened by horrible dreams, I spent an hour or two re-reading Mr. Vonnegut’s final book, A Man Without a Country. Here are some passages I marked:

On Art

“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a ay to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or how badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

On Life

“I turned eighty-two on November 11, 2004. What’s it like to be this old? I can’t parallel park worth a damn anymore, so please don’t watch while I try to do it. And gravity has become a lot less friendly and manageable than it used to be.

“When you get to my age, if you get to my age, and if you have reproduced, you will find yourself asking your own children, who are themselves middle-aged, ‘What is life all about?’ I have seven kids, three of them orphaned nephews.

“I put my big question about life to my son the pediatrician. Dr. Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: ‘Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.’”

On Current Affairs

“I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: ‘C-Students from Yale.’”

“George W. Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka Christians, and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart personable people who have no consciences…

“…What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin’ day and they are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they don’t give a fuck what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-collar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!

Kurt Vonnegut is gone now…

And so it goes…

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Pat Temiz tells us what has happened to the Sultan Ahmet mosque in Istanbul since the first time she visited The Blue Mosque in 1969.]


Comments

Thank you, Ronni!!!!!!!

I became a fan of Vonnegut's work maby years ago at the urging of my old friend, Dave, who was later to become my daughter's godfather. You just gave me the incentive to re-read them!

My favorite quote from him is:
"True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country."

Since Bush and Clinton are approximately my age, I understand how very right Vonnegut is on this as well as a lot of other things!

Thanks, Ronni. I love Kurt Vonnegut! He was a visionary & certainly a sage in his later years. Early on he wrote Palm Sunday.......with a slightly more "positive" slant. It's on my bookshelf & you've inspired me to look at it soon. I think his advice on "living the arts" will may help me get thru some of the days.....Dee

I love his quote on a really scary reality show "C-students from Yale." Boy, he sure nailed that one. I, too, love Vonnegut. Along with Gore Vidal they were (are) able to "cut to the chase". The ability to make your point in a few clever words is priceless.

Great quotes by an insightful man. Of course, those people he is talking about attack those like him-- the intellectuals, the writers and artists as the first ones to marginalize or make disappear. In this country so far it's through ridicule and devaluing anything because they are artists. Eventually, if the path stretches on long enough, fascism eventually imprisons or kills such heretics. I think it's why artists are the first to see the risk-- they are the first targets. They replace the real artists with their own version spouting their packaged truth. He sure did say it like it was.

Ah yes -- the nightmares. I suspect many of us share the horrible dreams. I certainly do.

Doing something -- and anything that creates friction in the slide toward the cliff is "doing something" -- slightly reduces them. Make art, make politics, resist, tell the truth, love someone.

We have the nightmares because we are human. This remains better than the alternative which will come in its time.

I just got done reading Fates Worse Than Death which I found fantastic, I really enjoy his perspective on the world. I just started reading Breakfast Of Champions & so far it is much better than the movie. I started reading Kurt Vonnegut because of a quote by him in a Howard Zinn book.

It was a radio interview and I believe he said: Music is proof that God exists.

Razor sharp and insightful. He was not afraid to cut to the chase.

I have always been a fan of Vonnegut. He used to be at the University of Iowa and there are loads of apocryphal stories about him floating around Iowa City. I'm going to have to get copies of Breakfast of Champions for my boys who I am sure haven't read any of his works yet.

I recall a story (as I re-read your blog)about Vonnegut at Rutgers University. In my DD's senior year, she "bumped" into him at a local watering whole. He was juggling 2 very large pitchers of beer & began joking with her as he tried to ease by without splashing beer down her shirt. She says she smiled & said: "my mom is such of fan of yours!" I can't recall his exact response, but it was very sweet & kind as he seemed to be. That's one of her fondest memories from college. Dee

A friend once told me her daughter said she felt like she was in a tunnel with an oncoming train, and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Vonnegut pinpoints why we might all feel that way in this living nightmare he describes in his words you quote above. His eloquent voice may be silenced, but ours is not. Neither is yours, fortunately for us, Ronni.

I can certainly identify with what he says about art. I hardly think of myself as an artist, but on some level I have learned I must practice even the simplest form of art for my soul's sake.

I believe life is richer than simply trying to help each other get through it, though certainly there are times when that is the primary focus.

Vonnegut's words certainly do cut to the crux of current affairs today.

Ronni, each time I check my e-mail and see a post from your Times , I think I am too hyper today, so I won't bother to open it but if I calm down, I shall open it later. Which evidently I do and am glad of it. Thank you so much and that is why I dust less and play piano more, because the music (as poorly as it is played) fills my soul. HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND YOUR READERS!!!

I'm ashamed to say that although I certainly know OF Vonnegut, I've never read his works. After reading the quotes you put here from him and the comments of your readers....I plan to visit the library and pick up one of his books.
Shame on me! How on earth could I have missed what seems to be insightful reading. Thanks, Ronni, for mentioning him. Oh...and sweet dreams to you.

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