Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt

vonnegut.jpgToday Kurt Vonnegut joined Hunter S. Thompson in the list of seminal counterculture authors of the 60s and 70s that have died since I moved to China.

Like Thompson, I read Vonnegut in those trailing years of adolescent angst; a time full of chemical-induced searching to put texture to the confusing “adulthood” I inexplicably found myself in. Books, including Vonnegut, I read in this period continue to hold legacy in having added depth to an otherwise shallow period of self-exploration.

Looking back I see now that I read these authors more to be “the guy that read Vonnegut, Kesey, Thompson, Salinger, etc.” than for any real sense of what I was reading. However, it’s impossible not to take some of that in, and come out with something substantial.

I owe Thompson for teaching me that journalism can be whatever you want to make it. To Vonnegut goes the credit of showing me great science fiction need not contain all that much science, nor fiction.

For those unfamiliar, Kurt authored a number of bizarre books that were part wacky science fiction and part socio-political brickbat. Two of his most famous novels, Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions, were turned into movies. He died yesterday at the age of 84.

A true Humanaught, here are a few of my favourite Vonnegut quotes:

“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”

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

“People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order so they’ll have good voice boxes in case there’s ever anything really meaningful to say.”

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
November 11, 1922 ~ April 11, 2007

5 Responses

  1. I’m definitely in that boat of , ‘read em to be that guy’, but your right, it was impossible not to effected by his writing.

    I think I’ll go re-read “Sirens of Titan”…

  2. The Useless Tree, a great blog about ancient Chinese thoughts in modern life, does a wonderful job of connecting Vonnegut to Daoism. As an armchair Daoist myself, I had never looked at the connection between what and when I read from Kurt and the Daoist outlook I have on life – two things that developed in me near the same time in life… great post.

  3. He’s certainly an interesting author. I read Bagombo Snuff Box, but nothing else. An interesting read, but not my cup of tea.

    I’m on a Heinlein kick right now. Stranger in a Strange Land and now Starship Troopers (as usual the book is better and quite different than the movie). He’s well worth your time if you like science fiction. And even though he wrote in the 50’s and 60’s the science doesn’t have too dated of a feeling.

  4. I’ve read Farnham’s Freehold (brilliant) and most of Stranger in a Strange Land (I got bored). I feel like I’ve read Starship Troopers, but for the life of me can’t remember if I ever did.

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