I woke this morning to the news that author Kurt Vonnegut died last night at the age of 84. Needless to say, I was, and still am, a fan. Like Mark Twain, Thomas Pynchon, and Philip Roth, Vonnegut used wry humor to probe serious moral, political, and social topics. While his 14 novels all seem to be studies of a deep abiding pessimism, you can’t help but feel an underlying determination to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, in the potential of individuals. The title character in his novel God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater (I can’t believe we don’t have it; I’ve already ordered it this morning) says it best:
â€œHello, babies. Welcome to Earth. Itâ€™s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Itâ€™s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, youâ€™ve got about a hundred years here. Thereâ€™s only one rule that I know of, babies â€” â€˜God damn it, youâ€™ve got to be kind.â€™ â€
At 13, I was fortunate enough to hear him, along with Joseph Heller, speak at Tulane University in New Orleans. In a room filled with poets, novelists, readers, and war veterans, a curly haired, bedraggled Vonnegut spewed curses and quoted poetry all in the same breath. He was sharp, crass, funny, and shameless. Expect the same from his fiction. We have a selection of books by Kurt Vonnegut in MSE Library, if you’d like to read one of his works. I’ll be rereading a few of them myself.
Thank you, Mr. Vonnegut, for all you’ve given us. You’ll be missed.