Thursday, April 12, 2007

Goodbye, Kurt Vonnegut

For the second time since I started this blog, I'm saddened to report on the death of a favorite writer. Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday at the age of 84. It was a good long life, but people like him always seem as though they're taken too soon.

I first became acquainted with him as a writer when I was in high school. The play our drama club did that fall was "Welcome to the Monkey House," based on four short stories from that book: "Harrison Bergeron;" "Who am I this time?"; "The Euphio Question;" and "The Kid that Nobody Could Handle." I came across the book a few years later in a used bookstore and decided to pick it up. I was hooked. Although I didn't really "get" some of the stories (and still don't, I confess -- I like his premise fiction much better than his realistic fiction) it still stands as one of my favorite books. "All the King's Men" still has me biting my nails every time I read it, although I know it so well I almost don't need the book to reread it. "Tom Edison's Shaggy Dog" makes me laugh (and wonder about my cats). The final sentences of "Report on the Barnhouse Effect" give me chills every time. ("With that last, terrible sentence flitting through my mind, I rolled fifty consecutive sevens. Goodbye.")

Most critics would probably agree that his more recent books have not been all that great. I remember when Timequake came out, he pleaded with them to be gentle and stated that it would be his final book, since he was getting too old for this. But still, Kurt Vonnegut at his worst is much better than many authors at their best. I can't believe that we'll never have a new book by him again. RIP Kurt Vonnegut. While you were here, you challenged us, you made us think, you made us dream, and you made us enjoy it all.

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