Kurt Vonnegut: Funny, Touching Stuff

I am sitting in Bracken Library 215 listening to a marathon reading of works of Kurt Vonnegut. This is interesting on a couple of planes.

The first plane, the funny one, is that the library, yes the dean of the library at a fairly well-respected state university, sent out several pieces of publicity (5 exactly) that invited people to join GSAB for a marathon reading of works by KIRK Vonnegut. You would think that the dean of the library would catch a mistake about an author who is not only incredibly well known, but just died, and was from Indianapolis to boot. Amazing: the powers of higher education.

The other plane, perhaps the more personal, and definitely the more touching one, on which this whole experience touches me is that my high school boyfriend loved Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. He relished its every page; his version showed it too, all dog-eared, yellowed, and marked up. I used to think he was crazy for loving Vonnegut, but I know now that he was just ahead of us, courtesy of his sister, in his knowledge of literature.

The final plane interests me, and perhaps the most intimate, is the plane of emotion. Right now we are listening to the “Prologue to Slapstick.” It is sad and mostly about life, which means it is mostly about life, and it makes me sad nonetheless. The last two readings were from Man With a Country and the political writings therein are so close so deeply engrained in our society, so fucked up right now. I guess if I think about all the readings together, I can be glad that we live with strong, deeply entrenched feelings, but I should look forward to death as well and what we leave behind.

Here are a few Vonnegut quotes:

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”—A Man Without a Country

“Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.”

“How nice–to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.” —Slaughterhouse Five

“One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.”

“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”

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