Friday, April 13, 2007

farewell sweet prince

kurt vonnegut jr.
11.11.22 - 4.11.07

for over a half century vonnegut has reigned as the prince of satire and a voice of compassion in american literature and appropriately hailed as a modern day mark twain. like many people born after 1945, I discovered vonnegut in high school. while I was in high school the united states was horribly entrenched in vietnam. although still in my teens, I was deeply disturbed by the vietnam war (I mean 'conflict') and frustrated that despite all our protests, leafleting and demonstrations there was no movement out of the mess (does this sound familiar?). despite my frustration and anger I found solace in vonnegut, and when slaughterhouse-five came out I thought we had been given a great gift in the form of a great novel -- fortunately for all of us kurt kept giving.

yesterday I received an email from borders, ostensibly noting vonnegut's death, but with the clear intent to sell books. what would kurt think about corporate giant borders using his death to hawk his books? rhetorical question - I know what kurt would think - he would be disgusted but not at all surprised. despite what I consider the extreme tackiness of the timing of border's email (gosh his body was barely cold!) it did include a link to a lovely tribute entitled 'life is no way to treat an animal': remembering kurt vonnegut by historian douglas brinkley. from this essay the following excerpt:

"Since Dresden transformed Vonnegut into being a card-carrying pacifist it's not surprising that he disdains everything about the Iraq war. "Honestly, I wish Nixon were president," Vonnegut laments. "Bush is so ignorant. And I don't like idiotic, impulsive people. He's not a capable human being. The war in Iraq shows that he's a phony Christian. Remember what William Shakespeare taught us a long time ago, 'The devil can cite Scripture for his [own] purpose.' "

He asks me if I know why President Bush is so pissed off at Arabs? I shrug no. "They brought us algebra," he laughs. "Also the numbers we use, including the symbol for nothing. Zero."

These days Vonnegut claims to be just a "farting around master"—the occupation which, in fact, people, he believes, were put on earth to do. Farting around for Vonnegut these days is a smorgasbord-like affair. Last year, Seven Stories Press released the meditation entitled A Man Without a Country—about being an octogenarian alive in Bushworld....

The function of the artist is to make people like life better than they have before," Vonnegut believes. "When I've been asked if I've ever seen that done, I say 'Yes, the Beatles did it.' " A few years back Vonnegut—for a single performance—sang scat at a Phish gig on Long Island. He also recently composed a libretto for Stravinsky's "Soldier Story" (performed by Steppenwolf in Chicago), based on the infamous termination of Private Eddie Slovak in 1954, the only U.S. soldier executed for cowardice since the Civil War.

Eugene Victor Debs, a fellow Hoosier whom he likes to quote: “As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

yes, goodnight and farewell sweet prince.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Powered by ultimate will and marked by questions, we stand on the brink of understanding.
Montana Wildhack I love you. Maybe the work toxins will work their way through my system if I can get some time off. The ants have worked a way to melt the ice nine and get some moisture. There is a hope but it is guarded by idiots. Only an idiot would start a war with the religion.

kimy said...

and billy - montana loves you back forever and wherever!