Friday, April 13, 2007

A Critical Review of Vonnegut Odes


I've been reading all the various online Vonnegut tributes since I found out about his death in my Borders Book Shop update email trying to get me to buy his books.

Basically, they're all good. Everyone loves Kurt Vonnegut (except the bible thumper who shouted in the streets the day he came to speak at the UW.) Everyone had something poignant to say about how he changed their lives and how much they love him. I can't provide links because there are to many to go back and search through and about ten more appear every few minutes.

One guy finagled his way into an interview while working as a reporter. When the guy embarrassed himself by saying something along the lines of "its the one with Billy Pilgrim in it," who happens to be in a lot his books, Vonnegut replied "I want my tombstone to read; 'Life, it was so embarrassing."

The New York Times article was good of course, which I somehow managed to get access to despite the fact that I usually can't read their articles.

One name I liked that I found was "A Mark Twain for the nuclear age."

Another blogger wrote about how a teacher she thought sucked recommended Breakfast of Champions to her which changed her life and her opinion of that teacher.

For me it was the short story Harrison Bergeron, which I read in 7th grade out of Readers Digest or something similar waiting for a dentist appointment, not even knowing or remembering the name Kurt Vonnegut afterwards.

They're all beautiful loving tributes. Blah blah blah.

It's nice to see that the Laughing Prophet of Doom had so many genuinely loving fans, but I on the other hand have a bone to pick with Mr. Vonnegut.

Ok here goes.

After his breakout success with Slaughterhouse Five and "debilitating depression leading to an attempt at suicide," he renounced science fiction and distanced himself from it as much as humanly possible. In Palm Sunday, a collection of essays and speeches, he tells a high school class at their commencement ceremony that all the good science fiction books were written by him, except for Arthur Clarke's Childhood's End, despite the fact that he at least loved one other writer (Theodore Sturgeon) enough to name his most recurring character, Kilgore Trout, after him. And that Player Piano totally ripped of any number of dystopian SF novels. Childhood's End wasn't even all that good. What the fuck Mr. Vonnegut. WTF.

I am in part kidding by the way, far be it from me to actually talk shit about someone who just died, but I feel like its an OK thing to do considering.

I thought about writing him a letter telling him the best way to finish his career would be to write one more science fiction novel seeing as his first books were his best anyways.

If you read a few speculative fiction blogs or online essays you'll quickly realize that one of the main gripes is that because people have a natural aversion to genre terms like sci-fi or fantasy or even horror. Successful artists who originally were included in the genre will often become apprehensive about being labeled as such when their success comes. Like the ex-nerd who pretends to not know his old friends once he tries out for the middle school football team and makes new friends. Is Asteroid 25399 Vonnegut named as such because some war buff loved the WWII and Vietnam commentary or because an astronomer fell in love with Malachi Constant's journey to the stars? Think about that one.

That said, I would like to say, Kurt Vonnegut you were one of my favorites, and you were right about being the greatest writer of science fiction who ever lived.

Despite anything you said or did, or anything I said or did, I hope that you're in a better place than this one.

5 Comments:

Blogger Laz said...

Agitated young men have been asking for Slaughter House 5 all day today. " DO YOU HAVE A BOOK CALLED SLAUGHTER HOUSE FIVE!!!!! i SUDDENLY NEED IT DESPERATELY!".

Well, I'm sorry for your loss.

April 14, 2007 3:33 PM  
Blogger Grant Miller said...

Was the title "Slaughterhouse Five" taken from the title of a Jackson Pollack painting or vice versa? Or am I completely mistaken?

April 24, 2007 11:27 PM  
Blogger DJ said...

I could tell you, but that would totally spoil the book for you.
Actually I don't know, but I'm sure you could look it up somewhere on line if you really want to know.

May 05, 2007 3:36 AM  
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