Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007

Vonnegut never pulled any punches.

On politics:

America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves…It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters.

Or religion:

When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes’.

Or cosmology:

The universe is a big place, perhaps the biggest.

Even in his 80s, when Brinkley interviewed Vonnegut in 2006, Vonnegut still had his edge:

I ask him whether he worries that cigarettes are killing him. “Oh, yes,” he answers, in what is clearly a set-piece gag. “I’ve been smoking Pall Mall unfiltered cigarettes since I was twelve or fourteen. So I’m going to sue the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, who manufactured them. And do you know why?” “Lung cancer?” I offer.

“No. No. Because I’m eighty-three years old. The lying bastards! On the package Brown & Williamson promised to kill me. Instead, their cigarettes didn’t work. Now I’m forced to suffer leaders with names like Bush and Dick and, up until recently, ‘Colon.'”….

When I was a University of Chicago freshman, I received a copy of the UC Alumni magazine.

“What does the “X” before the year mean?”, I asked a fellow student.

“The student dropped out before graduating.”

I then learned that Vonnegut dropped out before finishing his BA in anthropology. After the publication of “Cat’s Cradle”, the UC anthropology chair met with college administration and decided to confer on Vonnegut his BA based on Cat’s Cradle as his thesis.

Vonnegut gave the school the finger.

If only I had the talent in that finger.

RIP Kurt. NYC, April 11th, 2007.

True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.
—Kurt Vonnegut

Thanks to my friend Larry, who put these quotes together.

5 Comments so far

  1. Storey (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

    I think you’ll also enjoy this tearjerking video tribute to the late Mr. Vonnegut:


  2. Steve (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 2:40 pm

    According to the NY Times, he didn’t really “drop out” of U of C:

    “He also studied for a master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Chicago, writing a thesis on ‘The Fluctuations Between Good and Evil in Simple Tales.’ It was rejected unanimously by the faculty. (The university finally awarded him a degree almost a quarter of a century later, allowing him to use his novel ‘Cat’s Cradle’ as his thesis.)”

  3. Doug (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 2:46 pm

    I hope you don’t mind Steve, I edited your comment to link directly to the Times piece. Thanks.

  4. Carl Weaver (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 6:12 pm

    Thanks, Doug. It broke my heart this morning to hear of Vonnegut’s passing but then decided that in fact he had not existed at all except as a figment in my own imagination. A figment, mind you, I heard speak at Duke University a little over ten years ago.

    I never spoke back. He seemed so lifelike.

    I will miss him dearly, though he was never in my life any more than he is right this moment.

    Hi ho.

  5. Doug (unregistered) on April 12th, 2007 @ 6:38 pm

    So it goes.

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