My first content on this blog included a link to a Kurt Vonnegut article called Cold Turkey.
Yesterday, Vonnegut died.
Only after reading a bunch of his most famous novels several years after they came out, did I learn that my dad and uncle actually suffered through the Dresden fire-bombing as young D.P.'s during the tail end of the war. And hearing stories of them goofing around with potentially live ordnance, makes the surrealism of "Slaughterhouse-Five" hit home. I have the urge to revisit that book.
I get irked by those who consider Vonnegut a "young person's" writer. The fact that many high school and college-age students ate up his work does not diminish his standing in my mind. On the other hand, I keep on hearing that Vonnegut's style wears thin as one sufficiently "matures". In fact, I heard that idiocy repeated by the talentless hack blogger/columnist, James Lileks, on the Halfwit radio program today. So Lileks admitted to reading some of his stuff in college, but didn't think much of Vonnegut and contended that no one ever reread a Vonnegut novel. Well, like I said, I read lots of Vonnegut, as well as Woody Allen growing up. And I read Lileks while he wrote for my college paper, where I clearly saw a style as rote as Vonnegut proved creative. I kind of enjoyed Lileks back then because he did the Woodman shtick pretty good and it worked as a substitute since Woody never turned out the written product with the regularity of his movies. I'd get a chuckle as Lileks frequently crafted thinly veiled Allen aphorisms in the Daily's opinion or humor section. Fast forward two decades and we find that Lileks continues to churn out unctuous, cloying, goop-like StarTribune opinions that constantly reference safe targets like Target(R) along with "mature" vulgarities directed toward reporters like Robert Fisk who actually amounted to something.
In the end, Lileks will never understand that you don't have to reread a novel to make it have an impact on your life. I contend that reading something as creative and thought-provoking as Vonnegut growing up has had a huge effect on many a mind. The idea that "War is Hell" ranks at the top of the list of mind-altering moments, and the fact that Lileks turned into a putz sits at the bottom.
Update: said it better
It hit Mike Malloy hard too, he affectionately called him Mark Twain on acid as he quoted several timely passages during his nightly radio show. Tomorrow also marks the official end of "The Funny" Air America Radio era as Sam Seder gets displaced to the weekends. Rumor has it that Marc Maron will make an appearance, and if the sharp TV & radio minds get a clue, they can hire and put either SS or MM in old putz Imus's recently vacated slot.