Culture Vulture: Kurt Vonnegut

kurt vonnegut I remember exactly where I was when I learned of the passing of Kurt Vonnegut — I was in Wisconsin staying on a friend’s couch into the second month of my travels around the states. I wrote a poem in honour of him and i read it at the Harmony Cafe as part of the open mic poetry night — I don’t think there was anyone there who hadn’t heard of Vonnegut. It was a small crowd but he is someone you gravitate to if you are interested in writing in any way, or he should be. It was one of those losses to literature and to the world of large that I think is still reverberating — and if it isn’t it should be. But then Vonnegut seems so modest and self-effacing that I am sure he wouldn’t have wanted a great fuss, though he would have been touched by it. What is it that gives longevity to the work of Vonnegut? Is it the genre defying style? The big ideas? The characters he created and the places he goes with them? No, I don’t think so — from Breakfast Of Champion to Galapagos to Timequake I think the thing that shines through and the thing that keeps bringing the readers back is the humanity on display. At times I am reminded of Brautigan when I read something and they have that thing in common that they approach something from an oblique angle and manage to hit it square on. Humanity is an absurd thing in many ways and I think it takes a comic absurd eye to approach it sometimes rather than a straight poe-faced poke at the whole existential mess. You can almost float through a Vonnegut novel — you don’t have to push hard like you do with some novelists and you still come away feeling like you have learnt something — like you have been in the presence of a philosopher king and that you may just maybe have got yourself a glimpse outside the cave. —————- Now playing: Kristin Hersh – Shake via FoxyTunes

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