(Yes! Sandra and Deborah: you are gracious and kind angels. Thank you! -M)
Kim reports that she is feeling somewhat better--although that was quite a smack-down from the intestinal flu to keep her from her very own book launch! She promises to be at the next reading with the irrepressible Hiram on Wednesday, May 9 at 7pm at the Brookland Visitor's Center, 3420 9th St. NE, DC.
I can't begin to express how important his writing was to me as I was dragging myself from the inherited religious cosmological mire. Books like Sirens of Titan and Cat's Cradle provided a much-needed vigorous shaking of the "etch-a-sketch" cosmology I grew up with.
Years lated he made up half of the only philosophical self-description I could (still) claim: "Westian-Vonnegutist." One part engaged hope, one part universal realism (a contradiction at times, but I contain multitudes too).
I'm still stunned at this death. Yes, 84 is a long run. But it still bears noting and observing. If you haven't read his work, or haven't read it since high school or college, do yourself the favor. In his writing you will encounter an artist of great humor and even greater honesty. I especially loved his ability to be utterly humanistic and at the same time put humanity in its proper place. He was the foremost anti-sentimentalist of our time. He allowed me to transcend and imagine a reality beyond our own that was filled with great humility.
For now I'm attaching a list of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut lines. If you have others I'd love to hear them.
But that is the power of ear candy. The creation of such a universal confection for the eye, by means of printed poetry or fiction or history or essays or memoirs and so on, isn’t possible. Literature is by definition opinionated. It is bound to provoke the arguments in many quarters, not excluding the hometown or even the family of the author. Any ink-on-paper author can only hope at best to seem responsible to small groups or like-minded people somewhere. He or she might as well have given an interview to the editor of a small-circulation publication. Kurt Vonnegut, In These Times 01/27/03
And I remembered the Fourteenth Book of Bokonon, which I had read in its entirety the night before. The Fourteenth Book is entitled, “What Can a Thoughtful Man Hope for Mankind on Earth, Given the Experience of the Past Million Years?” It doesn't take long to read the Fourteenth Book. It consists of one word and a period. This is it. “Nothing.” Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle
"If you really want to hurt your parents and you don't have nerve enough to be homosexual, the least you can do is go into the arts." Kurt Vonnegut in lecture
One of the biggest moral bombshells handed to Billy by the Trafalmadorians, incidentally, had to do with sex on Earth. They said their flying saucer crews had identified no fewer than seven sexes on Earth, each essential to reproduction. Again: Billy couldn't possibly imagine what five of those seven sexes had to do with the making of a baby, since they were sexually active only in the fourth dimension. The Trafalmadorians tried to give Billy clues that would help him imagine sex in the invisible dimension. They told him that there could be no Earthling babies without male homosexuals. There could be babies without female homosexuals. There couldn't be babies without women over sixty-five years old. There could be babies without men over sixty five. There couldn't be babies without babies who had lived an hour or less after birth. And so on. It was gibberish to Billy. Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse Five
Sitting in Skip's Museum under the spiral staircase Winston Niles Rumfoord read Koradubian's magazine story with delight and admiration. Koradubian claimed in his story that Rumfoord had told him about the year Ten Million AD: “In the year Ten Million, according to Koradubian, there would be a tremendous house-cleaning. All records relating to the period between the death of Christ and the year One Million AD. would be hauled to dumps and burned. This would be done, said Koradubian, because museums and archives would be crowding the living right off the earth. The millionth-year period to which the burned junk related would be summed up in history books in one sentence, according to Koradubian: Following the death of Jesus Christ, there was a period of readjustment that lasted for approximately one million years. Kurt Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan
"Oh Lord Most High, Creator of the Cosmos, Spinner of Galaxies, Soul of Electromagnetic Waves, Inhaler and Exhaler of Inconceivable Volumes of Vacuum, Spitter of Fire and Rock, Trifler with Millennia — what could we do for Thee that Thou couldst not do for Thyself one octillion times better? Nothing. What could we do or say that could possibly interest Thee? Nothing. Oh, Mankind, rejoice in the apathy of our Creator, for it makes us free and truthful and dignified at last. No longer can a fool point to a ridiculous accident of good luck and say, 'Somebody up there likes me.' And no longer can a tyrant say, 'God wants this or that to happen, and anyone who doesn't help this or that to happen is against God.' O Lord Most High, what a glorious weapon is Thy Apathy, for we have unsheathed it, have thrust and slashed mightily with it, and the claptrap that has so often enslaved us or driven us into the madhouse lies slain!" -The prayer of the Reverend C. Horner Redwine in Kurt Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan
Rosewater was on the next bed, reading, and Billy drew him into the conversation, asked him what he was reading this time. So Rosewater told him. It was The Gospel from Outer Space, by Kilgore Trout. It was about a visitor from outer space, shaped very much like a Trafalmadorian. The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity, to learn, if he could, why Christians found it so easy to be cruel. He concluded that at least part of the trouble was slipshod storytelling in the New Testament. He supposed that the intent of the Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low. But the Gospel actually teaches this:
“Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected. So it goes.”
The flaw in the Christ stories, said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who didn't look like much, was actually the Son of the Most Powerful Being in the Universe. Readers understood that, so, when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought, and Rosewater read out loud again:
“Oh boy — they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time!”
And that thought had a brother:
"There are right people to lynch."
Who? People not so well connected. So it goes.
The visitor from outer space made a gift to Earth of a new Gospel. In it, Jesus really was a nobody, and a pain in the neck to a lot of people with better connections than he had. He still got to say all the lovely and puzzling things he said in the other Gospels.
So the people amused themselves one day by nailing him to a cross and planting the cross in the ground. There couldn't possibly be any repercussions, the lynchers thought. The reader would have to think that, too, since the new Gospel hammered home again and again what a nobody Jesus was.
And just then, just before he died, the heavens opened up, and there was a thunder and lightning. The voice of God came crashing down. He told the people that he was adopting the bum as his son, giving him the full powers and privileges of The Son of the Creator of the Universe throughout all eternity. God said this: From this moment on, He will punish horribly anybody who torments a bum who has no connections! Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse Five
Another time Billy heard Eliot Rosewater say to a psychiatrist, "I think you guys are going to have to come up with a lot of wonderful new lies, or people just aren't going to want to go on living." Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse Five
"There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope they are organized along the lines of the Mafia." Winston Niles Rumfoord in Kurt Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan
“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.’ ” Kurt Vonnegut - God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
"Farewell, hello, farewell, hello." Billy Pilgrim's Greeting inKurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five