Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut is dead at 84

He was truly a unique voice in American literature. He mixed satire, humor and sometimes science fiction to create scathing social commentary. The first book of his I read was Breakfast of Champions, as a high school student. The off-the-wall storytelling and ideas interspersed with the author's own line drawings made for sometimes hilarious passages.

Since that time I have read the classic Slaughterhouse-Five as well as his final novel, Timequake. Almost all of these novels involve somewhat flawed or quirky characters in usually improbable or absurd situations, dealing with life the best they can. Vonnegut's voice comes through, often with irony and humor, sometimes hitting you in the face with our own reality without you noticing because you're laughing so hard.

It's been years since I've read his work, and as one of my all-time favorite authors, I'm going to have to start a few more of his novels I haven't read yet. I'll never forget one of my favorite scenes in Rodney Dangerfield's Back to School, in which Vonnegut makes a cameo appearance as himself to deliver a paper which Thornton Melon (Dangerfield) hired him to write about himself for Melon's English class. Rent that movie sometime, it's a classic.

Today's New York Times has a good piece about Vonnegut and his life.


Anonymous said...

Kevin, Vonnegut's healthy disrespect for the establishment carries on in his work; his future creativity will be greatly missed by all renegade English teachers.


Renegade English teacher

Qiyamta said...

Isn't it funny that the most notorious of Catholic High School English teachers is also one of the most fondly remembered? Isn't it also strange that he himself was nearly as absurd and even physically resembled the author in question? "And now, the MEMORY please.....unless you'd like a special visit with Mr. Chambers...."

Kevin said...

Qiyamta: what a flashback to high school! Funny how memorizing "The Merchant of Venice" didn't seem so great at the time.

His wasn't the class that I read BoC for, but the physical resemblance to Vonnegut is striking, indeed.