saying goodbye to vonnegut

My friend Patty in Chicago just sent me this link to Miranda July’s beautiful and inspirational new website. She also sent me a few links to videos of one of my favorite bands, Pylon. They lifted me out of my “why the fuck did Kurt Vonnegut have to die” depression for a while, but now I’m right back in it. My eyes have been watering up all day. I’d just be sitting there and I’d think about him and I’d start getting all choked up. It’s hard to put into words. It wasn’t just that I loved his books. It was that he’d come to represent something more to me over the years. As bad as things got in the world, I took comfort knowing he was out there, challenging us to be better, more thoughtful, more gentle human beings.

I never got to meet Vonnegut. The closest I ever got was the time I was interviewing Daniel Pinkwater, and he told me about the time their paths crossed. (Daniel and I have the love of Vonnegut in common.) As coincidence would have it, I saw Daniel last night on television. He was being interviewed in a PBS documentary on being fat in America. I feel like calling him tonight, to talk about Vonnegut and how I feel abotu his death, but I think it would freak him out. (I think he and I also share a fear of our readers.) So, I guess I’ll just continue to lurk on Metafilter, reading all the touching Vonnegut tributes, and sobbing like a lost child.

I’ve decided that I’m going out this weekend and leaving a Vonnegut book or two where they might be found by teenagers. I’ve been thinking about it all day, and that, I’ve convinced myself, is the best way to say goodbye… And, on that note, here’s one of my favorite Vonnegut quotes:

I’ve worried some about why write books when Presidents and Senators and generals do not read them, and the university experience taught me a very good reason: you catch people before they become generals and Senators and Presidents, and you poison their minds with humanity. Encourage them to make a better world.

Goodbye, Mr. Vonnegut. In my eyes, you were always the model of what a human being could be. You were brilliant, witty, kind and thoughtful. You were religious in the best sense of the word. You were also a bit of a smartass. You said what you thought, without much concern for the consequences. I can’t help but think you lived through the Dresden fire bombing (and the years of depression) for a reason. The fact that you were here on earth gives me hope that there is a god, and that he is good. Thank you for opening up the mind of this once unremarkable suburban kid, and for inspiring him to be a better person. You will indeed be missed.

update: There’s a rumor that some folks will be meeting Friday evening at 6:00 at the Corner Brewery to have a beer in Vonnegut’s memory.

[This post was brought to you by the EMU chapter of STAND, the Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, who will be putting on a concert this Sunday night at Club Divine to raise awareness about the genocide taking place in Darfur, and, hopefully, some money. If you don’t know about Darfur, here are some resources. Check them out. The ghost of Kurt Vonnegut, I’m pretty sure, wants you to.]

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  1. Vera
    Posted April 13, 2007 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    I watched most of that documentary last night. I liked when Daniel was reading aloud a page from one of his books. He paused and said, “Did I write this?” in a very surprised and impressed tone. I can’t help but like a person who can mix pride, humility, and humor into one emotion.

    Here’s a clip of Kurt Vonnegut on Jon Stewart. (Sorry, I don’t know how to shorten it.)

  2. Tom
    Posted April 13, 2007 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    My favorite quote – “If you invade someone’s country,” Vonnegut said about the current war, “they’re going to fight back. Evidently that wasn’t taught at Yale.”

  3. oliva
    Posted April 13, 2007 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    The fact that you were here on earth gives me hope that there is a god, and that he is good.

    So well put. Thank you.

    And the idea of placing KV’s books around for people to pick up and read–perfect.

    God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut. And thank you forever.

  4. cleo love-paste
    Posted April 13, 2007 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    According to the story, when Vonnegut delivered the eulogy for science fiction writer Isaac Asimov he begain with, “Well Isaac’s in heaven now.” It then took several minutes for the assembled athiests to stop laughing their asses off. He said at the time that he wanted someone to make the same joke at his funeral.

    “Well Kurt’s in heaven now.”

  5. dr. teddy glass
    Posted April 13, 2007 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Haven’t you heard? There is no genocide in Darfur.

  6. Dr. Cherry
    Posted April 13, 2007 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I think the best way to get teenagers to read specific books is to forbid them.

    In HS when I found out that Catcher in the Rye was forbidden from our library, I instantly ran out and bought a copy.

  7. egpenet
    Posted April 13, 2007 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    Sold a used copy of Slaughterhouse this afternoon. It keeps making the rounds. Good as gold. Better.

  8. mike_1630
    Posted April 14, 2007 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    I fucking *love* her site! It’s so simple… yet original. Very cool!

  9. oliva
    Posted July 19, 2007 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Well, I got a yellow cloth-bound copy of Miranda July’s story collection, No One Belongs Here More than You, and it’s pretty wonderful. Perfect summertime pleasure–life at its best.

    Her video (which MM linked to here way back when, when we were saying good-bye to Kurt Vonnegut–before the Shadow Art Fair, before a lot of things, before Senator Byrd’s astoundingly fine speech on the Senate floor about dogs and dog fighting [ha, that was just today]) is sweet as can be. Thanks for that link, which helped guide me to this book.

  10. Tim D
    Posted July 20, 2007 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know about her new book. Thanks, Oliva.

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