It's a sad day for many readers and writers with the death of Kurt Vonnegut. The prolific and important cultural writer leaves behind his indelible ink and celebrated reputation. I read him for the first time in high school, when "Slaughterhouse-Five" was required reading for my English class. It was one of the first books I enjoyed critically analyzing. I still have my notes somewhere at my Mom's house, consisting of scribblings and diagrams outlining my theories around the political undertones of the novel. Those undertones were as far reaching and eclectic as the writer.
Charles J. Shields, who wrote the well-received biography of another beloved writer , "Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee", announced a little while back that he's working on a biography of Vonnegut. It's interesting he's going from writing about a reclusive writer to a publicly colorful one.
Not everyone appreciates or agrees with Vonnegut's distinct writing style, but those who do cherish him. His voice was one of ultimate dissent and amused ruefulness. During the two years I worked for an independent bookstore, Vonnegut's books were always a popular selection. A few friends I went to college with even named their band after one of his books.
It's appropriate that Vonnegut published "A Man Without A Country" as his last book; in it, he offers reflective essays and drawings on being an artist, his leftist view on politics, and life in general.
I think it's his candidness that is most respected. In a politically volatile time in our country, his was a critical voice and a surprisingly sentimental one, too. From an interview on PBS:
DAVID BRANCACCIO: There's a little sweet moment, I've got to say, in a very intense book-- your latest-- in which you're heading out the door and your wife says what are you doing? I think you say-- I'm getting-- I'm going to buy an envelope.Thanks to his remarkable body of work, Vonnegut's words will dance on.
KURT VONNEGUT: Yeah.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: What happens then?
KURT VONNEGUT: Oh, she says well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope.
I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know...
And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore.