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Friday, April 13, 2007

In Memoriam: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922 - 2007)

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Photograph, by Mike Sands, taken from Case Western Reserve University Marcomm Deprtment, hosting by PhotobucketA long time ago, in a country far, far away - to be exact, 1986 in the suburbs of Baton Rouge, Louisiana - Walski and some friends did our occassional weekend thing. Going to garage sales. It was at one of these garage sales, that fateful Sunday morning in 1986, that Walski picked up a book entitled Slapstick.

And it was with this quirky, somewhat free-associative writing styled book, that Walski was introduced to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Okay, not quite true, because before that Walski had known of Slaughterhouse Five, perhaps one of Vonnegut's most well-known (and most-banned) books. But Slapstick was the first Vonnegut book Walski actually read.

Last night, one of the All-Blogs pro-tem excos (Galadriel) informed Walski of Kurt Vonnegut's passing (on Wedesday, April 11). This morning, Walski's buddy, Lord Panda sent him a mail informing the same sad news, with a link to a BBC news article announcing the author's demise.

Slapstick - a wickedly funny book, satirical sci-fi novel that looks at a surreal possible future without oil and with miniature Chinese (among other things) - eventually led Walski to read two other Vonnegut books, Cat's Cradle and Breakfast of Champions. Slaughterhouse Five is one of those books that still remains in Walski's to-read list (sorry, Kurt - he'll get to it one of these days).

It is with mixed feelings that Walski takes in the news of Vonnegut's death, at the age of 84. Sad, on the one hand, that the world has lost, perhaps one of the 20th century's profoundly enigmatic fiction writers. Or, enigmatically profound.
(more Vonnegut thoughts, in the full post)

Not so sad, on the other hand, because Vonnegut lived a meaningful life. His stand against war, for example, fueled by his own grotesque experiences of World War 2, particularly the bombing of Dresden (which would later become an inspirational element fueling his best-known book, Slaughterhouse Five). As an author, he in turn has fueled the imagination of perhaps millions around the world, through his writings.

Image hosting by PhotobucketA simple, yet poignant announcement
(image taken from Kurt Vonnegut's website)

Those who know of Kurt Vonnegut's life story would be aware that his soul was troubled by many things in life. Despite his success as a writer, he suffered from depression most of his life. In 1984, he survived a suicide attempt. And survive it he did, perhaps explained by this line from his 1997 book, Timequake.

I am eternally grateful.. for my knack of finding in great books, some of them very funny books, reason enough to feel honored to be alive, no matter what else might be going on.
(source: The Quotations Page)

And this is why the simple carricature above that now adorns his official website is so poignant (to Walski, at least). Finally, his soul has attained freedom from this mortal, and probably depressing, coil.

Birth and death are inevitable points in the cycle of life, without exception. What's more important, though, is the timespan in between. And for Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., it was definitely a time well spent, and he will be remembered for many, many years after his passing. In a way, he lives on - not physically, but through the numerous memorable characters he'd created in his fantastic fiction writings.

Rest in peace, kind sir.