Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rest in Peace,
Mr. Vonnegut

There was a personal sweetness about Kurt Vonnegut that you don't find in every great writer. If anything, greatness in that realm often seems to spring from disagreeable personalities, personalities driven by the kind of inner demons that prevent people from simply being kind to others. But not Kurt. He always somehow found a way to be scrupulous in telling the truth and cutting through the bullshit while at the same time being graceful with others. Coastal simpletons might be moved to write that off to his Indiana roots--you know, midwesterners are always friendly, in their fevered imaginations--but anyone who watched him over many years sensed something far more interesting. Having been broken himself by life, he was respectful of the larger brokeness of humanity, and of individual humans. It left him with a light, common touch that reminded one of Mark Twain at his finest.

Of all the tributes I've seen after his recent death, this one was perhaps the sweetest, the most reminiscent of the man in its understated loveliness. He left his young protege with simple, important advice: "write every day." To review earlier mentions of the great one, click here.
UPDATE: Washington Post book critic Michael Dirda lead this interesting online discussion with readers yesterday, on the subject of Vonnegut. It's enlightening stuff from the finnicky but always-interesting Dirda, a Lorain native, who I've mentioned before, here and here.


At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone with an interest in literature (or the arts in general) can recall an "ah ha" moment when their eyes were opened by the work of a particular artist. For me, that moment came when I was 15 years old and randomly picked "Slaughterhouse Five" off the shelves of the school library. I read the book three times in the course of a few days and couldn't get enough. Then came "Cat's Cradle" and Vonnegut's short stories. Just amazing stuff that still has the power to make me laugh, cry, and everything else in between. Thanks so much for the nice tribute to a brilliant man, John.

(And by the way, I'm a frequent reader but new commenter here. Thanks for your ongoing efforts with the blog.)

At 12:46 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks for that wonderful addition, Scott, and I'm so pleased you've found this blog. I hope it'll hold your interest. It's people precisely such as you that I feel blessed to serve. And following your link, I found that I knew your name just a bit. Please say hi to our mutual friend Jen Cimperman when you see her next.


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