I’m sure every news story and blog posting of Kurt Vonnegut’s passing has used the same subject, but it is fitting. While I first read Slaughter House Five in high school I wasn’t a fan of Vonnegut until college. I had caught the reading bug by high school, but anything that was required reading – well many high school teachers have this irritating way of sucking all the joy out of a book I might otherwise like. I read “Cat’s Craddle” in college at the prompting of several friends and that’s when I got hooked. His dry humor, his sarcasm, and his cynicism drew me in. He took a long hard look at the dark side of things, then turned them on their head. He used humor to show the absurdity of governments, corporations, and all the other institutions that we give our freedoms over to without a second glance. In the end he gave us the tools to look in to ourselves – to take the blinders off and really attempt to grasp the bigger picture. In this pursuit he left no stone unturned.
For me, his finest book was “God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater”. It shows the darkest side of mans corruption and love affair with all things material. Despite the depths of hypocrisy and cynicism that is exhibited, it leaves you feeling that underneath it all is a ray of hope, some chance that people can grow beyond themselves and the simple desires.
I haven’t read more recent works or essays of his, but if they even capture only a fraction of the power of his novels then I’ll have to check them out. The world has lost a true humanitarian, a source of wit, and someone who never flinched in the face of the truth.
God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.