Thursday, June 11, 2015

Thanking Kurt Vonnegut

If you've read my posts after the deaths of Ray Bradbury and Terry Pratchett, you might understand a little bit of my frustration with posthumous shows of gratitude and admiration for great authors. The frustration comes from the fact that, the authors being dead, they never get to hear all the great things people say about them. Never get to see the larger picture of the effects they have had on the world.

Instead of complaining, I decided that I should lead by example. That I should show my gratitude now and thank the word nerds (most of whom I've never met) who have influenced me and my love of books, words, and writing.

And that I should do it regularly. I'm shooting for monthly.

And that I should immediately oppugn the spirit of the exercise by thanking a man who died in 2007.

But if I'm going to thank authors for their work and their influence, Kurt Vonnegut has to be at the top of the list.

Not because we're both from Indiana.

And not because we both played clarinet in school.

No. Kurt Vonnegut tops the list because, simply put, his novels are what made me want to become a writer.

Fates Worse Than Death
Fates Worse Than Death (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I don't know what it was, exactly. Maybe it was how he created extraordinary stories just by putting ordinary people in odd situations. Or how he could write himself into a story, as a character, and not make it feel contrived or self-obsessed. Maybe it was the grace and wit with which he broke the "rules" of novel-writing. (Where is Kilgore Trout these days?)

Or maybe I was just the right impressionable age to assimilate both the blackness and the humor of his black humor.

Whatever it was, it lit a fire in me back in the 1980s that, though it has sputtered from time to time, has never gone out.

So thank you, Kurt Vonnegut, for leading me down this path of joy, frustration, creativity, depression, and discovery.

Whether you love Logophilius, hate it, or find it exceedingly meh, it exists in no small part because of the works of Kurt Vonnegut.

I encourage you to thank those people in your lives who have helped you become who you are, whether you've ever actually met them or not, while they're still alive to be thanked. The fan letter isn't dead; it's just a bit more public.

Kurt Vonnegut books I have read (almost all of them)

  • Armaggedon in Retrospect
  • Bagombo Snuff Box
  • Bluebeard
  • Breakfast of Champions (twice)
  • Cat's Cradle (twice)
  • Deadeye Dick
  • Fates Worse Than Death
  • Galapogos
  • God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian
  • God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
  • Happy Birthday, Wanda June (a play)
  • Hocus Pocus
  • Jailbird
  • A Man Without a Country
  • Mother Night
  • Palm Sunday
  • Player Piano
  • Slapstick
  • Slaughterhouse-Five (thrice)
  • Sucker's Portfolio
  • Timequake
  • Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons
  • Welcome to the Monkey House