Kurt Vonnegut, the writer, novelist, speaker and, above all else, free-thinking iconoclast, is dead at the age of 84. Ironically, while he was a nearly life-long cigarette smoker, cancer did not claim him but a brain injury, suffered during a fall, finally conspired to take his life. He died at his home in New York.
Vonnegut was born in Indiana, the fourth generation of German-American Vonneguts. He enlisted in the Army during WWII and was held as a prisoner-of-war in Dresdon Germany — that incarceration served as the inspiration for the first Vonnegut novel I ever read, Slaughterhouse Five. I went on to read several of his novels and collections of short-stories and always marvelled at his imagination — he was never an ‘easy read’ for me, because it takes a lot to lift me from my cocoon of reality into the world where his stories took place, but it was always an enjoyable experience; he was a writer that I knew, at a relatively young age, I could never hope to emulate.
Although Vonnegut has not written any novels for several years because, he said at one time, that he felt that he has said everything that he had to say, he continued to write short, non-fiction articles until his accident. His last collection of writings, “A Man Without a Country,” belies his claim of having nothing more to say — he had much more to say and, agree with his point of view or not (which, for the most part I did not), it is clear that he could still say it with unique charm, wit and grace.
A Kurt Vonnegut quote that says as much about his style as it does about his irreverent sense of humor is advice he offered students during a speech at Ohio State University in 2006:
“If you really want to disappoint your parents, and don’t have the nerve to be gay, go into the arts.”
What more is there to say except goodbye — we’ll miss you!
Los Angeles Times: His popular novels blended social criticism, dark humor
BBC News: Writer Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84
From the blogosphere:
Anti-Essentialist Conundrum: R.I.P. Kurt Vonnegut
Donkey O.D.: Goodbye Kurt, I Know You’re Up In Heaven Now. 😉