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Kurt Vonnegut - a modern man on the edge

Last post 07-09-2008, 10:42 PM by ambosuno. 1 replies.
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  •  07-09-2008, 9:36 PM 61953

    Kurt Vonnegut - a modern man on the edge

    Hi - I introduce Kurt on a George Carlin tribute thread - and this thread too is as a tribute.
    Starting with what was posted on:
    "George was truley a "Modern Man" (Integralboy)
    Yes that was another, of so many, excellent power deliveries!

    Modern Man. No pretense of being a post-modern man. Solidly, honorably, humanly Modern.

    Which phrase leads nicely, such that I'll start another thread after a provocation here, into a cousin in spirit and in revelatory mind-gut bend, and another Modern Man, who died a little over a year ago. Kurt Vonnegut.

    I'm picking my way, like a finicky young eater at the distracting dinner table, through a 2008 release of a "collection of twelve writings on two of his most important subjects: war and peace. Written over the course of a lifetime, yet never before published, these pieces represent Vonnegut's unerring opposition to violence, and his rueful assessment of humanity's endless attraction to it." (says the front flap of Armageddon in Retrospect)

    I wonder what George and Kurt thought of each other and if they knew each other - my fantasy is that they met, with mutual respect.

    I'll place a few provocative pieces here from Wikipedia. Then I'll start a new thread, which I may have to fill out at a later time.

    He wrote a lot for my generation, modern times. I think he could be the carrier of a couple of fiercely vulnerable yet supple resilient shoulders on which we have stood towards certain post modern liberations. I think that he has done some serious gnawing away at the psychic boundaries that have afforded us possibilities of breaking through the cultural and the temporo-spacial barriers of convention against which we are still easily swooned into acquiescence. Schitzo-like he was  the wraith-spirits of both Lewis and Clark, poking holes in complacent comfort.

    "This is a very bad book you're writing," I said to myself.
    "I know," I said.
    "You're afraid you'll kill yourself the way your mother did," I said.
    "I know," I said.

    Near the end of his life Vonnegut said that his epitaph ought to read: "The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music."

    Kurt Vonnegut's experience as a soldier and prisoner of war had a profound influence on his later work. As a Private with the 106th Infantry Division, Vonnegut was cut off from his battalion along with 5 other battalion scouts and wandered behind enemy lines for several days until captured by Wehrmacht troops on December 14, 1944.[9] Imprisoned in Dresden, Vonnegut witnessed the fire bombing of Dresden in February 1945, which destroyed most of the city. Vonnegut was one of a few American prisoners of war in Dresden to survive, in their cell in an underground meat locker of a slaughterhouse that had been converted to a prison camp. The administration building had the postal address Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five) which the prisoners took to using as the name for the whole camp. Vonnegut recalled the facility as "Utter destruction", "carnage unfathomable." The Germans put him to work gathering bodies for mass burial. "But there were too many corpses to bury. So instead the Nazis sent in troops with flamethrowers. All these civilians' remains were burned to ashes."[10] This experience formed the core of one of his most famous works, Slaughterhouse-Five, and is a theme in at least six other books.[10]

    Vonnegut was freed by Red Army troops in May 1945. Upon returning to America, he was awarded a Purple Heart for what he called a "ludicrously negligible wound,"[11] later writing in Timequake that he was given the decoration after suffering a case of "frostbite".[12]

    In his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story:

    1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
    2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
    3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
    4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
    5. Start as close to the end as possible.
    6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
    7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
    8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

    Vonnegut qualifies the list by adding that Flannery O'Connor broke all these rules except the first, and that great writers tend to do that.

    Wilipedias tribute to Kurt at:

    Ambo Suno
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  •  07-09-2008, 10:42 PM 61987 in reply to 61953

    Re: Kurt Vonnegut - a modern man on the edge

    Kurt's son, Mark, wrote the introduction to Armageddon In Retrospect. Here below are a few things Mark says.

    "One of his favorite jokes was about a guy who was smuggling wheel barrows . . . [body of the joke omitted here] . . .
    Kurt would often laugh so hard at his own jokes that he would end up bent in half, looking up with his head in his lap. If it started a coughing fit, it could get a little scary."

    "Writing was a spiritual exercise for my father, the only thing he really believed in. He wanted to get things right but never thought that his writing was going to have much effect on the course of things. His models were Jonah, Lincoln, Melville, and Twain.
    He rewrote and rewrote and rewrote, muttering whatever he had written over and over, tilting his head back and forth, gesturing with his hands, changing the pitch and rhythm of the words. Then he would pause, thoughtfully rip the barely written-on sheet of typing paper from the type writer, crumple it up, throw it away, and start over again. It semed like an odd way for a grown up to spend his time, but I was just a child who didn't know much."

    "He always tried to be on the side of the angels. He didn't think the war in Iraq was going to happen, right up until it did. It broke his heart not because he gave a damn about Iraq but because he loved America and believed that the land and people of Linclon and Twain would find a way to be right. He believed like his immigrant forefathers, that America could be a beacon and a paradise."

    "When Kurt wrote, he was starting out on a quest. He knew because it had happened before, that if he could keep the feet moving, he might stumble over something good and work it and work it and make it his own. But as many times as it had happened, Kurt didn't have much self-confidence. He worried that every good idea he got might be his last and that any apparent success he had would dry up and blow away.
    He worried that he had skinny legs and wasn't a good tennis player.
    He had a hard time letting himself be happy, but couldn't quite hide the glee he got from writing well"

    "It's common knowledge that Kurt was depressed, but as with a lot of things that are common knowledge, there are good reasons to doubt it. He didn't want to be happy and he said a lot of depressing things, but I honestly don't think he was depressed.
    He was like an extrovert who wanted to be an introvert, a very social guy who wanted to be a loner, a lucky person who would have preferred to be unlucky. An optimist posing as a pessimist, hoping people will take heed. It wasn't until the Iraq War and the end of his life that he became sincerely gloomy"

    "The difference between my fans and Kurt's is that my fans know they are mentally ill"

    "The day before he sent me his last 'If I should die' letter, he finished the speech he was to deliver in Indiana to kick off the year of Kurt Vonnegut. Two weeks later he fell, hit his head, and irreversibly scrambled his precious egg.
    I got to study that last speech closer than most, since I was asked to deliver it. I couldn't help wondering, 'How on earth does he get away with this crap?' His audience made it work. I quickly realized that I was reading his words to an auditorium and a world utterly in love with my father who would have followed him anywhere.

    '[I'm] as celibate as fifty percent of the heterosexual Roman Catholic clergy' is a sentence with no meaning. 'A twerp [is] a guy who put a set of false teeth up his rear end and bit the buttons off the back of seats of taxicabs.' 'A snarf is someone who sniffs girl's bicycle seats.' Where oh where is my dear father going? And then he would say something that cut to the heart of the matter and was outrageous and true, and you believed it partly because he had just been talking about celibacy and twerps and snarfs."

    "His last words in the last speech he wrote are as good a way as any for him to say goodbye.

    And I thank you for your attention, and I'm out of here."

    Ambo Suno
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