I'm back from a long absence, in the midst of being swamped by a myriad of other tasks, not for the Imus controversy, the President's plan to extend the tours of all the troops in Iraq, or his search for a War Czar. But rather to honor the memory of man who influenced me greatly.
Kurt Vonnegut died today, he was 84, and the doctors said it resulted from a brain injury he received in a fall last week. It's a shame. Even at 84 Vonnegut was still writing, and was still a vibrant philosopher and activist. Of late he had become something of a grand-father figure for the writing community.
Even those casually familiar with Vonnegut know he had a hard life, and in a way this could be considered the third time he has died. In 1945, as a POW, he survived the Dresden Bombing, that killed somewhere between 35-135 thousand people. This cataclysmic event serves as a theme in most of his work. In 2000, a fire destroyed his personal archives.
My mother introduced me to Vonnegut in middle school. I read Slaughterhouse V, in 7th grade, and my outlook on life wasn't quite the same after. Vonnegut's anarchic, creative, subversive and intelligent style, was both a breath of fresh air and a comfort during times of difficulty. He could relate absurdity and hopelessness with a humanistic magnificence. Often in my life, when times were hard, and I needed something to put me in better spirits; that's when I would read Vonnegut.
As wacky and surreal as his novels were, they remained extremely personal. And in a Vonnegut-way, there is no better obituary than the one he wrote himself, at the end of Slaughterhouse Five. So, the best I can do is direct you there. If you haven't read Vonnegut, his books are as important as ever. If you have, you understand how much we'll miss him. The obit on AICN perhaps put it best. Vonnegut has become unstuck in time.