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:
“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.”
“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.]