Today 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