Saturday, April 14, 2007


From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Kurt Vonnegut, the satirical novelist who captured the absurdity of war and questioned the advances of science in darkly humorous works such as Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle, died Wednesday. He was 84.

Vonnegut, who often marveled that he had lived so long despite his lifelong smoking habit, had suffered brain injuries after a fall at his Manhattan home weeks ago, said his wife, photographer Jill Krementz.

The author of at least 19 novels, many of them best-sellers, as well as dozens of short stories, essays and plays, Vonnegut relished the role of a social critic. He lectured regularly, exhorting audiences to think for themselves and delighting in barbed commentary against the institutions he felt were dehumanizing people.

"I will say anything to be funny, often in the most horrible situations," Vonnegut, whose watery, heavy-lidded eyes and unruly hair made him seem to be in existential pain, once told a gathering of psychiatrists.

A self-described religious skeptic and freethinking humanist, Vonnegut used protagonists such as Billy Pilgrim and Eliot Rosewater as transparent vehicles for his points of view.

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When I was a teenager, I somehow ended up with an old paperback copy of Vonnegut's book Slapstick. It's his only novel that I've ever read. People have told me that it's nowhere near his best, but I remember really liking it. One of these days I'll get around to reading Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions. Maybe this summer. I have read, however, several of his essays, and seen or heard several interviews with him, which is how I know that he was brilliant. I feel an enormous personal connection with him in that he was a social critic, genuinely befuddled by fucked up human beings can be, who used humor like a sword. I'll never, ever, ever come anywhere close to being even half the writer that he was, especially because I have absolutely no gift for narrative, but I do look to him for spiritual guidance.

I am truly saddened by his passing.

Hi ho.