Thursday, April 12, 2007

And so it goes, Mr. Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut Jr., author of a number of amazing novels and short stories, died yesterday at the age of 84.

There's lots of articles all about his life, his birth, growth, and special relevance during the 60s and 70s getting pumped into the internets as we speak, but I just wanted to acknowledge the man. Kurt was one of the few authors who successfully bridged the invisible line between science fiction and literature. Of the novels I've read, his were the most uncategorical. It's hard to put his work in a box. He defied the boundaries of subject matter. He defied the conventions of traditional pacing and narrative.

I would go so far to say that he reinvigorated a modern movement of "questioning reality", of which we saw in recent movies such as the Matrix trilogy, Dark City, Abre Los Ojos, eXisTenz, and others where we see a common theme where there's a thin gauze hiding our view the truth; we only need to move the gauze and all would be revealed.

His tales are absolutely magical. I reread The Sirens of Titan, Player Piano, Cat's Cradle, Galapagos, Hocus Pocus, Slaughterhouse-Five, Slapstick, and others from time to time. When I first started reading him, I had actually given him a break as I had overdosed after reading 4 of his novels back to back.

I think for the most part, his books and stories were lessons he wanted to share with others. Typically, his characters had to go through some kind of arduous ordeal or experience, until eventually an overarching denouement manifested (typically outside of the pro/antagonists control) in which all was set in order, but in the least conventional or expected fashion. There were elements of bizarre coincidental mysticism, where he'd direct seemingly unconnected events into a logical stream of order designed to articulate his message to the reader. My personal opinion on what he asked of his audience: I think he wanted people to be good to each other because our time here is short.

Check out his books. I'm sure now that he's dead his publisher will release ALL NEW commemorative editions that cost $60, but you can go by the library and borrow a copy.

Personal favs of Kurt's books:

  • The purpose of humanity, as described in Sirens of Titans...
  • How becoming very tiny is a powerful thing, as described in Slapstick...
  • Ice-Nine as an heirloom, as depicted in Cat's Cradle...
  • How having a sleek bullet shaped head is the best thing that happened to anyone, as told by the ghost in Galapagos.

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