God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut


Kurt Vonnegut has died. He was 84.

The strength of my reaction has stunned me. I knew something was up when I got to the PC this morning and found the screen littered with blinking IMs. . . ‘Did you hear?’ ‘Sorry about Vonnegut.’

I had not heard. I had blissfully turned in early with Danielle’s story in my hands. I scribbled the Post-it Note song as tears spilled from my eyes. I knew the news was no good.

He was old, and a few years ago he nearly burned down his own home with a cigarette. I had seen him on the Jon Stewart show, you could tell ol’ Kurt was declining.

I am sitting here at my desk, naked and crying. E-mails keep popping in from people I know telling me of the news and expressing their condolences. So clearly I have, in the past, expressed to many people the depth of my admiration and respect for Vonnegut.

And as I sit here with my fingers on the keyboard, I cannot think of a single thing to write. My mind is blank and I am filled with sadness that I can’t even express. Maybe later.

Later, 10:48 a.m.
I am cursing the Scandinavianness of most midwestern names. I decided today would be a good time to see if I couldn’t Google up the Wilsons, the people responsible for introducing Vonnegut into my life. I wanted to thank them and express my condolences. But I had no luck.

I am still in the midst of reading How to be Alone by Jonathan Franzen. One of the things he seems to push in virtually every essay in the book is that our current ‘electronic age’ is isolating people. But today, I can say he’s dead wrong.

All over the Web people are pouring out their thoughts on Vonnegut’s writing. It’s comforting, to feel not so alone in your sadness over the death of someone who meant a lot to you.

Like I mention in the comments below, I am lucky that I have a co-worker who cherished Vonnegut as much as I did. We spent the morning exchanging weird Vonnegut memories. She told me how she thought about staying home today. I did too.

But not everyone is going to be as lucky to have someone in their lives to turn to about Vonnegut’s death. A majority of people aren’t even going to know who he was. Plus, reading is such an isolating and intensely personal thing that it’s hard to share your feelings about books you’ve read with the people in your life who have not read them. But here on the internet, you can easily find a hundreds if not hundreds of thousands of people who have read and love Vonnegut just as much as you. It’s comforting to have people to mourn with.

Between Vonnegut’s death and the testemonials I am kind of a big, weepy mess today.

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  1. david 12.Apr.07 at 9:14 am

    My youngest sister once said that Vonnegut was an author “loved by mixed up high school kids.” Of course, she was a cheerleader, and when I was in high school I was “mixed up.”

    Vonnegut celebrated his life, and had courage to speak out even when his opinion was unpopular.

    God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (my favorite novel of his), indeed.

  2. lou 12.Apr.07 at 10:12 am

    I was late to work this am because I got the news just before I headed for the door. It didn’t settle in til later in the morning here at work. Talking to one of my coworkers he doesn’t even *know* who Vonnegut is. I was flabbergasted and could hardly figure how to respond to that or where to begin.

    I’ve been reading some of the discussion threads at sites like slashdot and fark and it warms me to see how well loved he was by so many, and how much they appreciated the real value of what Vonnegut had to say.

  3. Jodi 12.Apr.07 at 10:31 am

    I’m with you Lou. I’ve actually been quite lucky in that one of my co-workers, Jayto, was also a big Vonnegut fan. She and I have been exchanging messages all morning commemorating the man.

    She told me about how when she was in college in Iowa, all the writers in the workshop would throw a huge party at his old house and it was the best party of the year.

  4. wolfdogg 12.Apr.07 at 3:37 pm

    A Vonnegut quote from Isaac Asimov’s funeral…

    “Isaac is in heaven now, that was the funniest thing I could have said to a crowd of Humanists. God Forbid, Should I pass on sometime, may all of you say that Kurt is in Heaven too.”

  5. Jodi 12.Apr.07 at 3:40 pm

    I heard this on NPR about Vonnegut saying what his own epitaph:
    “If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.”

  6. mkh 12.Apr.07 at 9:25 pm

    When I saw the news on Metafilter this morning I thought of you, Jodi.

    No damn cat, no damn cradle.

  7. Aine 13.Apr.07 at 10:02 am

    I found Vonnegut’s work when I was in high school, and whoa, did he ever capture my imagination. I even got one of my more creative friends to do boko-maru with me.

    I’ve been loving all the quotes that have popped up on the Internet. This one especially made me smile.

    Also: “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”


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