Thursday, April 12, 2007

God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut (1922-2007)

"And so it goes..."

I have loved Kurt Vonnegut's writing since I first "discovered" him in the late 60's and I think I have read all his books. This fall, I bought, what turns out to have been, his last book -- A Man Without a Country. I loved his gentle, worldly-wise tone that was both bleak and full of love. He had a twinkle in his eye for us like a favorite uncle would and he wrote poems like this.
God made mud.
God got lonesome.
So God said to some of the mud, "Sit up!"
"See all I've made," said God, "the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars."
And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
Lucky me, lucky mud.
I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
Nice going, God.
Nobody but you could have done it, God! I certainly couldn't have.
I feel very unimportant compared to You.
The only way I can feel the least bit important is to think of all the mud that didn't even get to sit up and look around.
I got so much, and most mud got so little.
Thank you for the honor!
Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
What memories for mud to have!
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met!
I loved everything I saw!

Andrew Leonard in Salon:
Kurt Vonnegut was a good man, a kind man, a mensch. Our world is a shallower, drearier place without him. But anyone who has enjoyed any of his work, or been lucky enough to bask in his twinkle, can still rejoice, because we will always have him, in all his idiosyncratic twisted-chess perversity. The world is less without him, but it will always be more because of him.
Steven D at the Booman Tribune:

An atheist, his books were nonetheless filled with discussions of war, poverty and injustice that reflected his progressive beliefs. Some might say he was a pessimist, even a nihilist, but they would be wrong. What he was was a modern day version of the prophet Jeremiah ranting at the America which he loved, but whose failures he did not deny or overlook. Failures he constantly decried in his books, failures of vision, compassion, justice and the everyday betrayal of our highest ideals in the service of our collective greed and lust for power as a nation. He was the antithesis of everything for which George W. Bush stands. We did not deserve him.

Please forgive me Kurt, but God bless you Mr. Vonnegut, and thank you for your service to your country.

Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country:
If I should die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

Kurt again:
Dan, that was my bad uncle, who said a man can't be a man unless he'd gone to war.

But I had a good uncle, my late Uncle Alex. He was my father's kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life-insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."


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