Author Topic: Kurt Vonnegut has become unstuck in time  (Read 5073 times)

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bwv 1080

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Kurt Vonnegut has become unstuck in time
« on: April 11, 2007, 06:25:07 PM »
Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died last night in Manhattan. He was 84 and had homes in Manhattan and in Sagaponack on Long Island.

His death was reported by Morgan Entrekin, a longtime family friend, who said Mr. Vonnegut suffered brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago.

Mr. Vonnegut wrote plays, essays and short fiction. But it was his novels that became classics of the American counterculture, making him a literary idol, particularly to students in the 1960s and ’70s. Dog-eared paperback copies of his books could be found in the back pockets of blue jeans and in dorm rooms on campuses throughout the United States.

Like Mark Twain, Mr. Vonnegut used humor to tackle the basic questions of human existence: Why are we in this world? Is there a presiding figure to make sense of all this, a god who in the end, despite making people suffer, wishes them well?

He also shared with Twain a profound pessimism. “Mark Twain,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote in his 1991 book, “Fates Worse Than Death: An Autobiographical Collage,” “finally stopped laughing at his own agony and that of those around him. He denounced life on this planet as a crock. He died.”

Not all Mr. Vonnegut’s themes were metaphysical. With a blend of vernacular writing, science fiction, jokes and philosophy, he also wrote about the banalities of consumer culture, for example, or the destruction of the environment.

His novels — 14 in all — were alternate universes, filled with topsy-turvy images and populated by races of his own creation, like the Tralfamadorians and the Mercurian Harmoniums. He invented phenomena like chrono-synclastic infundibula (places in the universe where all truths fit neatly together) as well as religions, like the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent and Bokononism (based on the books of a black British Episcopalian from Tobago “filled with bittersweet lies,” a narrator says).

The defining moment of Mr. Vonnegut’s life was the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, by Allied forces in 1945, an event he witnessed firsthand as a young prisoner of war. Thousands of civilians were killed in the raids, many of them burned to death or asphyxiated. “The firebombing of Dresden,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote, “was a work of art.” It was, he added, “a tower of smoke and flame to commemorate the rage and heartbreak of so many who had had their lives warped or ruined by the indescribable greed and vanity and cruelty of Germany.”

His experience in Dresden was the basis of “Slaughterhouse-Five,” which was published in 1969 against the backdrop of war in Vietnam, racial unrest and cultural and social upheaval. The novel, wrote the critic Jerome Klinkowitz, “so perfectly caught America’s transformative mood that its story and structure became best-selling metaphors for the new age.”

To Mr. Vonnegut, the only possible redemption for the madness and apparent meaninglessness of existence was human kindness. The title character in his 1965 novel, “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” summed up his philosophy:

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/11/books/11cnd-vonnegut.html?hp

Offline Catison

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Re: Kurt Vonnegut has become unstuck in time
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2007, 07:26:06 PM »
So it goes.
-Brett

uffeviking

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Re: Kurt Vonnegut has become unstuck in time
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2007, 07:39:20 PM »
Now there is a loss!  :'(

The Ranks of members of the Beat Generation are getting mighty thin.   >:(

Joe Barron

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Re: Kurt Vonnegut has become unstuck in time
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2007, 08:02:19 PM »
I miss him already.

Breakfast of Champions was one of the funniest books I've ever read. It made me laugh out loud and tears come to my eyes.

Every so often I reread Slaughterhouse Five and am always impressed with how well it holds up.

Offline toro913

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Re: Kurt Vonnegut has become unstuck in time
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2007, 08:30:55 PM »
R.I.P
He was one of my favorite authors and certainly one of the best.

Offline Florestan

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Re: Kurt Vonnegut has become unstuck in time
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2007, 01:44:07 AM »
R.I.P.
May God have mercy upon his soul!
"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." - Victor Hugo

Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Kurt Vonnegut has become unstuck in time
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2007, 03:07:03 AM »
So it goes... :'(

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karlhenning

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Re: Kurt Vonnegut has become unstuck in time
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2007, 03:12:53 AM »
If Vonnegut did not exist, it will have been necessary to invent him.

Offline jwinter

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Re: Kurt Vonnegut has become unstuck in time
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2007, 10:42:09 AM »
A sad, sad loss.  Vonnegut's been one of my very favorite authors for a long time.  An old friend always used to tell the story of how Vonnegut had given a speech at his college when he was an undergrad, and after the event the author and probably half the students in the English Dept. retired to a local pub, where they talked about books, sex, and politics until they were kicked out at closing time, and then kept right on talking as they strolled about the moonlit streets.  Wish I'd have been there, he sounded like a lovely man. 
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.

-- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Offline Brian

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Re: Kurt Vonnegut has become unstuck in time
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2007, 04:56:06 PM »
I was moved and saddened to hear of this; I had for some reason always had the expectation that he would live forever.
I was even more moved and saddened when I went to school and found that no-one else had ever heard the name Kurt Vonnegut before.
I just wrote a lengthy meditation on his life and emailed it to everyone I know, including the local paper.



God bless you, Mr. Rosewater.
We'll miss you.