Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Kurt Vonnegut Jr., And So It Goes

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. passed away this week at the age of 84, from head injuries he incurred after a fall several weeks before. All the obits I read kind of missed the point, as I see it.

Kurt made his mark in my brain with his flash-of-genius science fiction invention, Ice 9. It's in one of his early stories, Cat's Cradle, which is the first work of his I read. That was in the early 60's, I was just starting college. I remember going in search of other books by him, but all I could find was something called Welcome to the Monkey House which was out of print and I never did find a copy. It was a collection of his short stories. Of course it is readily available now, re-published in the late 90's. I may have amazon.com send me a used copy. And of course there was the highly over-rated Slaughterhouse Five which at least was a work of what Arthur C. Clark would call science fantasy. Unlike Cat's Cradle, there was no science behind the fiction, but parts of it were set in outer space, and on another planet.

I also read his Mr. Rosewater books, though they were not sci-fi I still enjoyed his writing style. And his creation of Kilgore Trout, failed porn author. I wonder what happened to my copy of Venus on the Half Shell? Vonnegut referred to this sci-fi-porn classic by Trout in several places, and when it appeared in paperback with an unrecognizable photo of the author in trenchcoat, fedora and dark glasses I assumed it was Kurt's doing. Turns out Phillip K. Dick fessed up to the dirty deed many years later. But I digress.

I stopped being a fan after reading Breakfast of Champions, the book which starts and ends with a child's drawing of an asshole. Like Heinlein's later works, Vonnegut descended into his own private world, knowing that anything he wrote would be published.

Vonnegut looked and sounded a lot like Mark Twain. Later in life he cashed in on this by following in Twain's footsteps and going on the lecture circuit. I saw him at Stanford several years ago, the place was packed to the gills, and he was highly entertaining. And so much like Mark Twain that I had to look at the program to make sure he wasn't Hal Holbrook.

Anyway, the point, as I see it, is we lost an incredibly talented and creative science fiction writer. But we lost him about 30 years ago. The body which used to house that massive talent finally stopped working last week.

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