I don't know what he thought of college football, his subjects typically being of the weightier variety, but I am sure any writer since the great flop-over of American temperment in the sixties is indebtted to Kurt Vonnegut. He died last night from a fall in his home weeks ago. The drawing to the left is from his Web site.
It may be a literary crime that I've never read Slaughterhouse Five. Maybe it only feels that way. I try to avoid thinking in canonical terms, and Vonnegut's satiric novels suited me fine. Everyone is told at some point the writer is supposed to make people taste and smell and feel the intricate grooves of things, which as far as I can tell Vonnegut made no attempt to do and is an inspiration for it. Who wants to know what a pomegranate tastes like? Like chicken, probably. Vonnegut's stories are about people's lives and ideas, and they're great ideas.
And occasionally you'd come across something small he contributed to some volume of something or other, like his rather recent diagrams of the plots of famous stories (delivering the world's best and possibly least laborious Kafka joke to date) or that little book on death he compiled a few years ago, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, in which he confronts the beyond in a collection of radio spots originally conceived for public radio. Vonnegut's much-shared obsession with Hitler's psychosis is profound in the context of his life and trauma, and this series gave him an opportunity to relay a critical message from the fallen dictator:
He also wrote in that book:
Kurt Vonnegut will be lauded today, but I'm not sure we can really do better after the past few decades of a life whose dues were paid so long before its end than a tasteful stone cross or something like that. I have no idea if he cares, or would have, or if the people close to him think he deserves any rewards (or punishment). The only meager reward I can offer is the assurance that, professionally, to the world's sense of literature and self-examination, there is nothing to pardon.