By April 12, 2007 2 Comments Read More →

Kurt Vonnegut, R.I.P.

From the New York Times (“Kurt Vonnegut, Counterculture’s Novelist, Dies“):

Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like "Slaughterhouse-Five," "Cat’s Cradle" and "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died last night in Manhattan. He was 84 and had homes in Manhattan and in Sagaponack on Long Island. 

His death was reported by his wife, the author and photographer Jill Krementz, who said he had been hospitalized after suffering irreversible brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago. 

I know some people think of Vonnegut as a literary lightweight, and it’s true that his work was somewhat uneven. But reading Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Breakfast of Champions was an essential part of my early development as a young reader and writer. He was one of the great originals of our time, and — if I may make a joke of which I think he would have approved — we need more like him.



Posted in: Book News

About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

2 Comments on "Kurt Vonnegut, R.I.P."

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  1. Donna Seaman says:

    Kurt Vonnegut has been compared to Mark Twain for his gift for meshing humor with gravitas. His great humanism illuminated our follies and tragedies, our yearnings and heroism. A mordant social critic and a brilliantly inventive storyteller, his irreverence balanced his sense of responsibility as he revealed the absurdity and horrors of war, and the thrill and danger of our enthrallment to technology. A man from America’s heartland who loved music and believed in the power of stories, Vonnegut wrote one of the world’s most arresting, provocative, and resonant antiwar novels. I reread Slaughterhouse-Five on the last day of 2006. I was drawn to it because I was struggling to express inchoate feelings about the future of reading and books, and because I was in despair over the Iraq War. The novel amazed me as it has each time I’ve read it. And each time, I’ve been struck by something different. During this reading, I lingered over Billy Pilgrim’s journey to the planet Tralfamadore. Strapped into a chair on a flying saucer, Billy asks for something to read. The only Earthling book in English the Tralfamadorians have on hand is Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls. After reading it, he “thought it was pretty good in spots.” But he doesn’t want to read it again, so he asks to see a Tralfamadorian book. He can’t read the language, “but he could at least see how the books were laid out––in brief clumps of symbols separated by stars. Billy commented that the clumps might be telegrams.” A voice explains:

    “There are no telegrams on Tralfamadore. But you’re right: each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message––describing a situation, a scene. We Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.”

    Let us thank Kurt Vonnegut for many marvelous moments that will last for all time.

  2. Keir says:

    Thank you, Donna.

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