Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tumbling Pieces

Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday. Mr. Vonnegut suffered irreversible brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago, according to his wife, Jill Krementz. I'd like to think he simply left the shell of his body after the fall, uncomfortable with the anchor of the flesh.

For me, he was a major building block of the edifice I've been constructing of myself. He was both the New NEW Thing back in the high school days as well as an old soul, so deeply connected to Mark Twain that he seemed to be his quirky grandson. Vonnegut's work lives on for me, although he has not been the popular author for the 15-25 set in many decades. A shame. Perhaps his death will rekindle an interest in his quirky view of the human condition.

Some other personal giant/heroes whose physical presence I'm missing.

"I've always despised old people. I got angry at my father when he began to show signs of age." - William Steig, who died in 2003.

"The difficulty with marriage is that we fall in love with a personality, but must live with a character. " - Peter DeVries, who died at a too young 83 in 1993.

"Destiny is a good thing to accept when it's going your way. When it isn't, don't call it destiny; call it injustice, treachery, or simple bad luck. " - Joseph Heller, who died in 1999.

"The Mandolin is the bottom four strings of the guitar, backwards ...
so a person with dyslexia has no problem learning to play the Mandolin.
" - Steve Goodman, who died in 1984.

NYT's reviews of most of Mr. Vonnegut's novels is here.

New Additions, 04/16/07:
From a 1997 New Yorker, here's this Talk of the Town piece.
Another New Yorker item, this time from 1976 as written by John Updike.
Three's a charm, from the New Yorker of 5/17/69, a review by Susan Lardner of Slaughterhouse-Five.

As pointed out by Bookslut,a small op-piece from 4/13/2007's NYT is here. The latter is especially intriguing and its main topic, "What happens to your attitude/response to an author, who you were crazy about in your teens and early 20's, when you're in your 40's-50's?", is worthy of an expanded essay. For any readers out there, are you willing to tag-team on this topic? WP? Mr. Sgazzetti? Hillbilly, Please?

Oh. How strangely fitting that I first hear the news from you.
How nice to see your post about Steve Goodman and your link to the SG Preservation Society, a worthy pursuit in which I've been closely involved. As you know, Goodman often doesn't get his due. Thought you might be interested in an eight-year project of mine that is coming to fruition -- a biography of Goodman that will be published in May. Please e-mail me at if you would like me to e-mail you a background sheet on the book. Or check my Internet site below for more info and how to pre-order, if you like. Just trying to spread the word. Feel free to do the same!

Clay Eals
1728 California Ave. S.W. #301
Seattle, WA 98116-1958

(206) 935-7515
DarkoV - I must admit to never having read through a Vonnegut book.

Now, I shall have to atone.
Like WP, I was going to say that it's so fitting I might learn this from you as well. You seem to me to be his apprentice. As a young liberal college student, I relished his books and read every one (I think). I've since recovered. ;-) He came to KC a few years ago and I went to hear him speak. Your description of him as a descendent of Mark Twain is most fitting. What a shame that he had to depart us so soon.
If I were the blaming kind of guy, I'd put Mr. Vonnegut (along with a college junior year heart-crusher of a romance with a Tipping-point kind of Canadian gal) as the main reason I ever took up, for a limited time, the smoking of cigarettes (these, if you must know). Luckily, for me, my lungs were smarter than my brain and did protest loudly. My hacking and choking in public spaces were quite an effective and unintentional anti-smoking campaign.
But, anytime I think of Vonnegut, a cigarette also comes to mind. That, a strong cup of coffee, a slouchy sofa, and one of Vonnegut's beauties covering my face.
Wup - didn't notice your invitation at the end until today. I've got some thoughts, but it could be a day or two before I post them.
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