Sunday, January 1, 2012

God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

A while ago there was a new book published of short stories by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. I was excited, and put a hold on the new book from the library. When it arrived, I sat, touched the cover, opened the book, closed it unread, kissed the cover goodbye. I wrote on goodreads that I could not read the book. These were stories published after Vonnegut died. He was meticulous, perhaps cantankerous about what stories were suitable for publishing. I thought he'd be mad the work was published without his permission. I know Kurt Vonnegut and his works do not belong to me, that the man and his writing and I have no connection. But I take Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and his storytelling very personally indeed. He was the author who set the shape of the outside world into my bones, made me feel less strange, as though a friend was showing me the ropes. I think he was like me, formed by Midwestern sensibilities, a less than completely loving family, smart, anchored in expecting too much from himself, disappointed by the weirdness of life. And then he went to war, and how I feel about war is how he wrote. Horrified. He was amazed by the silliness of human endeavors, sad, impossibly idealistic and driven to achieve the impossible. Perfection. I haven't yet reread all of his books, I think they would be too painful now. I put another book on hold at the library. It's a biography by Charles Shields called And So It Goes. It has been on my desk for a couple of weeks. Today I read the introduction, and some of the first few pages, and I closed this book too. I will not read it, it's due back tomorrow. I will keep in my heart the Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. who gave me and so many other devoted readers so many rich scenarios to ponder, so much heart on the page, so much of himself. God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.

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