Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I ran across a blurb that author Kurt Vonnegut had died.

I don't often feel moved enough to feel I have to write about someone, I did it when Ted Koppel left ABC and I did it when Gordan Parks died, but not that often.

Kurt holds a special place on my bookshelf. I've often gone back to his words for inspiration in writing features (when I decide to write that is), as his descriptive style was very similar to the best pieces of journalism. His writing style gelled with me, he could always turn a phrase on its ear and I always thought he was a little crazy in the head like myself.

In many ways he was the slightly nutty companion to the Hemingway and Steinbeck on my floor.

Kurt was a man with the razor edged wit to satirize even the harshest, most vile and most horrific of events with the ease of a Joey Chestnut at a Costco free sample stand.

A man who very well may have employed the work 'pecker' more than any other writer ever has.

A man who pondered the purpose of life and was less interested to the answer of why we are here and more so to what the punchline will be.

I discovered Vonnegut where most people discover him, in high school English. And like most high school English students, I groaned at the prospect of having to read another book.

But a funny thing happened as I flipped my way through; in between thoughts of, "I wonder if this has anything to do with SplatterHouse," I found myself engrossed in Billy Pilgrim's journey through war, space, his psyche and time as he seemingly bounced around his life, as if he had control over his fate yet at the same time was a victim to the cruelty of man to each other and the situations it creates.

There's something sardonic about Kurt's final chapter, like his most famous creation he to suffered a brain injury... and perhaps in another universe Kurt is in a book seeing his own death and flashing back to a better time.

Kurt was 84, and he still has a home between "A Farewell to Arms" and "A Russian Journal" on my shelf.

The New York Times has a nicely balanced retrospective. It's also where I found the excellent portrait.

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