Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut is looking down on us . . .

That's the joke he told at noted secular humanist Isaac Asimov's funeral.

I love Kurt Vonnegut. Of all the people outside my immediate family and friends, he without a doubt had the biggest influence on my life. From the moment that my dad handed thirteen year-old me that old taped up copy of The Sirens of Titan he took out of the library, with the lavender cover and the painting of three beautiful women in space clothes, I knew he was something special.
I read everything he had written within the year, and I've read them all multiple times since. Kurt Vonnegut is my hero.

I was sitting in class today, thinking that, in Sirens of Titan, all of human history had been orchestrated long distance by aliens in order to deliver messages to Salo, the shipwrecked alien robot, so that he could repair his ship and fly it across the galaxy to a randomly chosen planet to deliver a pointless greeting in commemoration of some stupid anniversary, and I walked out to find the man had died. I don't believe in the supernatural, I just think that his ideas influenced me so much that there was always a good chance I'd be thinking of him at the moment that he died.

Things he wrote about that I will never forget:
  • Unk's list of facts about the world in Sirens of Titan.
  • Eliot Rosewater's springy pubic hair.
  • The marine mammals humans evolve into in Galapagos. Some of them had blonde curly hair, because the progenitor was of German extraction.
  • Fluctuating gravity in Slapstick.
  • Ice-9
  • The index writer in Cat's Cradle who could tell that someone was in love and gay just by reading the index he wrote himself.
  • The Harmonia that live in the core of the planet mercury and eat vibrations.
  • The Black Fuhrer from Mother Night
  • Every single thing in Slapstick
  • When Rabo Karabekian had a case of the dropsies in Bluebeard
  • The entire bar scene in Breakfast of Champions: Bunny Hoover, Dwayne, Rabo Karabekian, Kilgore Trout, the speed reading, every single thing in there is burned into my brain.
  • The moment that Rudy Waltz's father finally opens up the huge barn door of his house that had been closed and served as a wall for years and years, and proudly salutes his son's prom date in a Nazi uniform given to him by his art school friend Hitler.
  • The levitating tables and chairs in Sirens sliding all over the place when Malachi is hearing that he's broke.
  • His description of a victim of untreated syphilis, stalled out on a street corner in Indiana while spyrochetes eat his brain.
  • His description of Beatrice Rumfoord, that she looked like an Indian brave, and that it would be nice if everyone looked like her.
  • Winston Niles Rumfoord and Kazak traveling through time on the chronosynclastic infundibulum.
It was the last one that got me. The chrono-synclastic infundibulum rocked my world at thirteen and I never looked back. More than any other writer or thinker Vonnegut affected me, and I'm sure he's looking down from up there somewhere chain smoking with Eugene V. Debs, his sister and brother Bernard, and gearing up to write the story of the next million years on air.
What about it, Vonnegut fans, any other favorite moments?


Jeff said...

"Anyone who cannot understand how useful a religion based on lies can be will not understand this book either." -Cat's Cradle

An atheist, yet still able to see the positive value that religion could play in someone else's life.

Joe Mondello said...

One of the obits described him as an atheist with an affinity for the message of Jesus Christ.