Saturday, April 21, 2007

What's odd is that I haven't written a Kurt Vonnegut obituary here. I've been bringing up his death to people, and getting kind of meager responses. Maybe people felt guilty, as I did, for not having read the majority of his work- He was a prolific dude. And, after a certain point, you feel like you get it, you get the thing. This seems insulting, but really, no. I think his work was incredibly successful in what I think art is supposed to do- communicate a consciousness and a point of view.

The awful Fox News obituary is hilarious because of the way it misses all of that for how it's tied in with politics. Because Vonnegut was political, but his politics were tied to his humanism, and what he valued in such a way that to talk about him simply as being liberal or Socialist or whatever is to miss the point, because political party is all just gang affiliation. With Vonnegut, the politics were never as poorly thought out as all that, they were deeply felt based on principles of what human beings deserve.

I never thought that Vonnegut's narratives were the best thing about his work- The metafiction conceit of Breakfast Of Champions worked the best for me, but the more straightforward stuff always felt almost hampered by its plot convolutions. I also don't think I ever laughed out loud reading his books- There's a sense of humor, but the jokes aren't laughers, at least for me. The jokes are nonetheless a part of what makes it all work, though. Because the thing that makes Vonnegut so successful is related to the jokes, and his humanity- It's the moments of clarity. Vonnegut saw the world so clearly. There's always this single point of view, but it's always so right on in its sense of humanity and dignity. Part of that is the acknowledgment that humor gets us through it. I can't even talk about it. Basically, I think that to not like Kurt Vonnegut is to be a bad person. He's dead, and you have his books, which really do say all he had to say and map out his consciousness.

The tragedy of his death is that we no longer have the best dude who is right all the time to say what is right. We have people who can do it, of course, but there's a power to around-the-blockness. In Man Without A Country, it's discussed that Bush is the worst president America's had, worse than Nixon and Reagan. He says this as someone who lived during the time of a truly great president- Franklin Delano Roosevelt- and who, at the time, didn't even vote for him in favor of voting for the Socialist candidate in at least one election.

In the same way as there are people who are willing to claim Christianity for the side of conservativism and people to claim Jesus as a hippie, there are people who argue where George Orwell would stand on the war on Iraq. We know where Vonnegut stood on the current set of world affairs, but maybe that clarity will get lost to time's future history. That's one of the tragedies. The other is simply that the world lost a good person.

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