Saturday, April 14, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut: So It Goes*

There were a few books that I encountered in my late teens and early 20s that fleshed out my world by an exponential number. The most memorable of those books were J.D. Salinger's 9 Stories and Franny and Zooey, Ram Dass's Be Here Now, Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. Well, all of Vonnegut's books, really. Once I read Slaughterhouse Five, there was no stopping at that point. I then read Cat's Cradle, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and you know the rest of the stories.

There are always people from your own generation, and from previous ones, that light the way, for those of us who want to believe that there is more to the universe and to existence than our mainstream culture revealed to some of us during our childhood. My father owns a clothing store, and my memories of him going to work everyday, coming home in the evening still absorbed in this quotidian world, instilled in me the distinct impression that life as an adult was intrinsically uninteresting. Although very young, I just assumed that being an adult was boring, and that was reality.

Fortunately, when I was 12, The Beatles invaded, and I do mean, invaded. And that started the spark for me. It implanted, without me even knowing, the first seed that the universe was immense, and so were the possibilities. The next epiphany came when I was around 22. I was reading a Rolling Stone article about Paul McCartney. This was post-Beatles. The article was about Paul's new solo album. I know this will sound incredibly trite to you, but it was a huge epiphany for me suddenly--Paul didn't just slip into the business world after the Beatles. He continued creating music and carried this passion into the--and now for that phrase--"adult world". I was already primed to be a hippie at that point, but this gave me the necessary nudge. The direction of my life was for me to create. And it's been an adventure ever since.

So, it is with a really deep sense of sadness to learn of Kurt Vonnegut's passing. He was one of the people in my life, whom I had never met, but somehow known intimately. The normal metaphor would be to say that Vonnegut was a light of the world. And he was. But I like to think of him more as a medium of the universe. Like Lennon, like Dylan, like LSD, like Ram Dass, like Rimbaud. Some people seem to be more attuned to the universe. Vonnegut was one. He was brilliant and funny, and knew how to describe the human condition in a way that resonated with my sense of who I was. He taught me more about me.

He will be missed, but he won't be the last. So it goes.

*The title of this blog entry refers to the phrase Vonnegut uses in Slaughterhouse Five whenever a death occurs.

1 comment:

KYingling said...

I learned on Fresh Air this week that Vonnegut felt that English majors are exposed to great writing too soon, stunting their capacity to like their own work because it can't measure up. On another note, I'm taking some comfort in your admiration of Paul McCartney in the whole world of creation thing. Whatever I create and in whatever high or low capacity it is used, I always strive to be a John Lennon and I'll be damned if it doesn't turn out to be a Paul McCartney. I am still striving. Maybe someday, and so it goes.