Thursday, April 12, 2007

Goodbye, Blue Monday

When my radio alarm woke me up this morning, I caught "he survived the firebombing of Dresden, and much of his early work dealt with atrocities..."

Holy Shit.

The segment ended, I poked Courtney, and she listened to the last bit with me, still too asleep to process that all the verbs were in the past tense. She ran to the computer and popped up the news, and there it was. Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84.

You're not supposed to cry when people die whom you never met. But damn, I can hardly even type right now. I was okay, until I entered that title above, and then it just broke. Goodbye, Blue Monday. It's like the god damn Velveteen Rabbit all over again.

People either get Vonnegut, or they don't. Few people who get Vonnegut don't have a period of their life where they start voraciously consuming his novels as fast as they can read for at least a few months. You change during those months. I think I was 16. People talk about great writers, but Vonnegut was an important writer. He was important because he's often the first writer that existential dysthymic teenagers run across who is so interested in something that, however nebulously, you have to call truth.

Vonnegut, like the other main artistic force in my personal development, R.E.M., wasn't doing anything nowadays to add to his legacy. A Man Without A Country was a guilty pleasure, and quintessential Vonnegut, but it wasn't a book, and it was clear to all of us that he wasn't going to write another book. Timequake wasn't even supposed to happen, and plenty of people wish it hadn't. But Kurt Vonnegut had a series of seven novels, each of which incrementally dealt further with his time in Dresden, leading to his eventual release from its grasp on his artistic psyche in Breakfast of Champions.

He was old, and the fact that he didn't die of lung cancer might be a small miracle unto itself. But these days come. And these days are devastating.

On the top of one of my bookshelves, every Vonnegut book published (except for a few of the random nonfiction ones that have popped up over the past ten years or so, mostly collections of previous stuff), is lined up in a nice dusty row. Several of them have more than one copy, due to the merging of my and Courtney's book collection. I imagine the two or three that have managed to avoid being read for all these years will find that streak coming to an end very soon.

Funny, I just mentioned to Courtney that we watched Slaughterhouse Five on DVD the night of our first kiss.


1 comment:

Tiny Shrink said...

And so it goes.