Thursday, April 12, 2007

UNSOLICITED EXPLANATION

Rather than field off-topic questions in the comments thread to another post, I figure I'll deal with it right here: I've neither forgotten to post on Kurt Vonnegut, nor is my non-posting any reflection of my opinion of Vonnegut as a writer or a public figure. What I know about him is good.

In fact, the non-posting is a reflection of the fact that I've never read a word of Vonnegut's writing.

{Short pause for gasps of surprise, tut-tutting, me ducking garbage & rotten fruit flung in my direction, and mildly condescending "questions" along the lines of, "You've never read Vonnegut?"}

No folks, I have not. Not a word. I "missed" Vonnegut in college somehow, and by the time I realized the scope of my loss I figured maybe I was too old, too formed in my opinions, to read a guy best known for influencing the malleable minds of philosophically-inclined univerity students. I wish I'd given him a shot when I was 20.

Or maybe I just didn't feel like it. Who knows? Anyhow, lots of people I respect swear by Vonnegut, and that's fine for me. The loss of an artist who meant something is always a sad day. And for that, I can relate: R.I.P. Kurt.

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22 Comments:

Anonymous Applesaucer said...

"I figured maybe I was too old, too formed in my opinions..."

Uhh, you've been that way since at least 1977, Mike, as, since I've known you, you've ALWAYS been on some form of restrictive cultural diet.

Sometimes it's "no red meat;" other times it's "no simple carbs" (though it always includes complex carbs) but it has always started with:

"I won't watch this...I don't read that...I can't listen to [ ]...or on a [ ]..."

Applesaucer

9:59 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

You're just pissed I won't watch your Arctic Moneys video.

Right?

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Applesaucer said...

lol.

Yes, I was pissed about that.

But I am SO OVER IT. I swear! Really, I am.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

Somehow, I missed Kurt Vonnegut, too. But I've been to Dresden - twice. I even thought about him while I was there.

And now I'm feeling inspired to pick up Slaughterhouse Five.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I've been to Dresden

What does it look like? Typical Eastern Bloc shithole? I know it was a considered an architectural jewel before the firebombing.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

I never read anything by Kurt either.

Then again, I know I am a cretin.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous waitingforthealiens said...

Jesus Christ, guys, it is like smoking: never to late to start. Vonnegut is as relevant today as he was in 1970 and as relevant to a 50-year old as to a 15-year old. I may have read all the novels (oh, if you go to the library, check under the name Kilgore Trout,) but Cat’s Cradle, Breakfast of Champions, Slaughterhouse Five are standouts as I recall.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

WTFA -

I hear you. But read what Apple said above. A dickish move on his part, to be sure. But as usual, he's fluent in "Truth" as well as "Dick."

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

I've been to Dresden

What does it look like? Typical Eastern Bloc shithole? I know it was a considered an architectural jewel before the firebombing.

There are some buildings near the train station with that Eastern Bloc feel, and I'm sure there are many apartment buildings, away from the city center, in that style. But there are many lovely buildings there, too.

I suppose they've mostly been reconstructed. The Zwinger palace stands out in my memory as a very lovely, baroque-era place. It now houses a museum.

Also, when I was there, the Frauenkirche (cathedral) consisted of a spire on one end and an entrace on the other end, with a pile of rubble in between. But it was being reconstructed then (early 90's) and has now been completed. I'd love to visit again.

The Elbe river cuts through town (and near the pretty opera building and a reconstructed walking bridge). Follow the river and pretty scenery (including neat rock formations) also surrounds the city.

I sheepishly admit that one of my favorite features of the city is the German Hygiene Museum, which houses a see-through "woman." Her various internal organs light up as a recorded narrator explains the functions of the body.

I had first heard about this "woman" when I was in the 3rd grade. So I thought it was super cool to finally "find" her when I was 21.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Wow. Why Dresden . . . twice? If I may ask?

3:52 PM  
Blogger George said...

It's ok you have yet to read Vonnegut...but a crush on Olive Oyl?

3:59 PM  
Anonymous waitingforthealiens said...

As my sainted grandmother would have said, "It is not a shame to learn you have bed bugs, but it is a shame to keep them."

As for influencing malleable young minds, I will paraphrase Walker Percy: Students are as fickle as whores. They will follow anyone who will stoop to lead them.

That would not have been Vonnegut. He was a Middle America populist, but that placed no limitation on his creative genius. His made minimal use of language and lavish use of irony to bring the reader to a fresh recognition of the human condition—which is by and large the purpose of all art—but he hit you with the ideas like Ali jabbed. His satire was as acidic as any, but I always sensed a great generosity of spirit, not unlike e.e. cummings. As oxymoronic as it sounds, I think he had an optimistic sadness.

Read him or not. I’ve certainly failed to read more than my share. To the extent that one “makes friends” on the internet, I consider you one and believe that your experience of life will be enriched by some degree if you do.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

George, that's a low-blow! I thought what gets said on other blogs stays on other blogs. Jeez.

Now I'll have to tell everyone what you said about your secret attraction for Dick Cheney's smirk.

WFTA -

Nicely-put, especially this: minimal use of language and lavish use of irony to bring the reader to a fresh recognition of the human condition—which is by and large the purpose of all art—but he hit you with the ideas like Ali jabbed. His satire was as acidic as any, but I always sensed a great generosity of spirit

Makes me wanna go and pick something of his up now. At any rate, I always find it moving to hear someone talk about an artist he loved, and artist that affected him. It's clear that he touched you in that way, and for that I'm glad.

And I'm sorry that you & all his other fans lost him today.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Will McKinley said...

dude this is completely off topic but I've got two tickets to the game against the Nats on Saturday at Shea. I can't use them. They're yours if you want them (and can pick them up in the city). You remember the city, right? It's the big think across the river...

6:16 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Wow, thanks Will. Hell of an offer. I'd love to say yes, but I can't. Got things planned for Saturday.

Shit.

Are you looking to give 'em away come hell or high water? I'm sure there are vultures hanging around here -- of the Met fan variety -- that'd be willing to scoop them up. Some of them might even live on that overpriced rock you call home.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Marked Hoosier said...

Haven't. Read. Vonnegut????

I just lost respect for you. For SHAME!

*looks around*
Psst... don't tell anyone... but I haven't either. Right now I really feel like we both should have, isn't that weird? If you tell anyone that I haven't, I will cut you! I mean it! Heh. :)

10:16 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Anyhow, go ahead and write a real knowledgeable obit, and I'll link to it. I'll act like I agree with everything you say.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Marked Hoosier said...

I don't think my comment came across right... so lets try again without the "humor."

I was just saying that I didn't read him either... but now I am looking into getting a book of his to read. He had a lot of fans, which is a sign that he was a great writer. I am sorry for the Vonnegut family's loss, and to the loss his fans are feeling. RIP Kurt.

11:35 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

I got it the first time. I think it was my attempt at humor, however, that wasn't "gotten."

Don't sweat it.

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

Wow. Why Dresden . . . twice? If I may ask?

I was a young and carefree travel-loving, german-speaking German exchange student taking advantage of the great rail system and cheap lodging options in Europe...

Hmmm, I feel a more detailed account of some of those days coming on over at my place (as soon as I can arrange getting some pictures of those days scanned in).

11:51 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I was a young and carefree travel-loving, german-speaking German exchange student taking advantage of the great rail system and cheap lodging options in Europe...

Nice. I know of what you speak. If you give a crap, here's something I posted last spring before you found my blog.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Will McKinley said...

Mike - My seats are Upper Reserved, Section 21, Row L, Seats 1 and 2. Not the best seats in the house. But they're in the house. None of my friends (if I had any) can use them, so I open the floor to yours. If anyone can pick them up in the Union Square neighborhood this afternoon or evening (or tomorrow around noon), they got 'em.

1:48 PM  

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