A goodbye from the monkey house

After a solid half-century of churning out vivid and resonating commentaries on the human condition, essays we called “novels and “short stories,” Kurt Vonnegut has died.
I don’t have a favorite Vonnegut story. Kilgore Trout is one of the more memorable literary characters ever to ply his trades; Thomas Edison’s Shaggy Dog may be the most striking work of its miniscule length I have ever had the pleasure to read, and I can’t even tell you why. Billy Pilgrim — pathetic, heroic, fortunate beyond measure and cursed beyond belief — could not help but draw every last scrap of empathy from all of us.
Vonnegut was more than a little bit skeptical, of course, a critic of woo and exploitation before we had many names for such things, before it was cool. His state-run “ethical suicide parlors” and elimination of pleasurable sex spoke to the societal insanity of future generations, whose “moral” leaders would agonize over the legitimization of gay coupling, hedonism, and self-determinism on the whole.
But Vonnegut’s writing, like that of all the greats, is there above all for the savoring, not the analyzing, something to be enjoyed pro se. Read something by him and you can’t help but feel you’re better for the afternoon or evening spent with his bon mots.
I’m sad he won’t get to write any more stuff for me to read. Maybe he would have liked that observation more than a eulogy.
In the end he was no more or no less talented than anyone else, of course.

  1. #1 by Blake Stacey on April 12, 2007 - 11:26 am

    You’ve got an unclosed tag after “pro se”.

  2. #2 by JimFiore on April 12, 2007 - 11:40 am

    Odd, but I was thinking of ice-9 and the cosmic kiss-off at the end of Cat’s Cradle just the other day. I could never point to my favorite Vonnegut work because they are all so good. It would be like asking which morsel in a bag of chocolate chips was your favorite. And every time I saw him being interviewed I was always struck by his humanity.

  3. #3 by donquixoteshorse on April 12, 2007 - 3:09 pm

    I was commenting to a friend this morning that our world has lost one of the real good guys and the next one, whatever that may be, is probably in for a heckuva surprise. Much as I’ll miss any future literature he may have produced I regret that he won’t be around to see the final expulsion from power of the Diana Moon Glampers party.

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