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Thread: Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    Default Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84

    NEW YORK (AP) - Kurt Vonnegut, the satirical novelist who captured the absurdity of war and questioned the advances of science in darkly humorous works such as "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle," died Wednesday. He was 84.
    Vonnegut, who often marveled that he had lived so long despite his lifelong smoking habit, had suffered brain injuries after a fall at his Manhattan home weeks ago, said his wife, photographer Jill Krementz.

    The author of at least 19 novels, many of them best-sellers, as well as dozens of short stories, essays and plays, Vonnegut relished the role of a social critic. Indianapolis, his hometown, declared 2007 as "The Year of Vonnegut"—an announcement he said left him "thunderstruck."

    He lectured regularly, exhorting audiences to think for themselves and delighting in barbed commentary against the institutions he felt were dehumanizing people.

    "I will say anything to be funny, often in the most horrible situations," Vonnegut, whose watery, heavy-lidded eyes and unruly hair made him seem to be in existential pain, once told a gathering of psychiatrists.

    A self-described religious skeptic and freethinking humanist, Vonnegut used protagonists such as Billy Pilgrim and Eliot Rosewater as transparent vehicles for his points of view. He also filled his novels with satirical commentary and even drawings that were only loosely connected to the plot. In "Slaughterhouse-Five," he drew a headstone with the epitaph: "Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt."

    But much in his life was traumatic, and left him in pain.

    Despite his commercial success, Vonnegut battled depression throughout his life, and in 1984, he attempted suicide with pills and alcohol, joking later about how he botched the job.

    "I think he was a man who combined a wicked sense of humor and sort of steady moral compass, who was always sort of looking at the big picture of the things that were most important," said Joel Bleifuss, editor of In These Times, a liberal magazine based in Chicago that featured Vonnegut articles.

    His mother killed herself just before he left for Germany during World War II, where he was quickly taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge. He was being held in Dresden when Allied bombs created a firestorm that killed an estimated tens of thousands of people.

    "The firebombing of Dresden explains absolutely nothing about why I write what I write and am what I am," Vonnegut wrote in "Fates Worse Than Death," his 1991 autobiography of sorts.

    But he spent 23 years struggling to write about the ordeal, which he survived by huddling with other POW's inside an underground meat locker labeled slaughterhouse-five.

    The novel, in which Pvt. Pilgrim is transported from Dresden by time- traveling aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, was published at the height of the Vietnam War, and solidified his reputation as an iconoclast.

    "He was sort of like nobody else," said Gore Vidal, who noted that he, Vonnegut and Norman Mailer were among the last writers around who served in World War II.

    "He was imaginative; our generation of writers didn't go in for imagination very much. Literary realism was the general style. Those of us who came out of the war in the 1940s made it sort of the official American prose, and it was often a bit on the dull side. Kurt was never dull."

    Vonnegut was born on Nov. 11, 1922, in Indianapolis, a "fourth- generation German-American religious skeptic Freethinker," and studied chemistry at Cornell University before joining the Army.

    When he returned, he reported for Chicago's City News Bureau, then did public relations for General Electric, a job he loathed. He wrote his first novel, "Player Piano," in 1951, followed by "The Sirens of Titan," "Canary in a Cat House" and "Mother Night," making ends meet by selling Saabs on Cape Cod.

    Critics ignored him at first, then denigrated his deliberately bizarre stories and disjointed plots as haphazardly written science fiction. But his novels became cult classics, especially "Cat's Cradle" in in which scientists create "ice-nine," a crystal that turns water solid and destroys the earth.

    Many of his novels were best-sellers. Some also were banned and burned for suspected obscenity. Vonnegut took on censorship as an active member of the PEN writers' aid group and the American Civil Liberties Union. The American Humanist Association, which promotes individual freedom, rational thought and scientific skepticism, made him its honorary president.

    His characters tended to be miserable anti-heros with little control over their fate. Vonnegut said the villains in his books were never individuals, but culture, society and history, which he said were making a mess of the planet.

    "We probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard... and too damn cheap," he once suggested carving into a wall on the Grand Canyon, as a message for flying-saucer creatures.

    He retired from novel writing in his later years, but continued to publish short articles. He had a best-seller in 2005 with "A Man Without a Country," a collection of his nonfiction work, including jabs at the Bush administration ("upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography") and the uncertain future of the planet.

    He called the book's success "a nice glass of champagne at the end of a life."

    In recent years, Vonnegut worked as a senior editor and columnist at In These Times. Bleifuss said he had been trying to get Vonnegut to write something more for the magazine, but was unsuccessful.

    "He would just say he's too old and that he had nothing more to say. He realized, I think, he was at the end of his life," Bleifuss said.

    Vonnegut, who had homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons in New York, adopted his sister's three young children after she died. He also had three children of his own with his first wife, Ann Cox, and later adopted a daughter, Lily, with his second wife, the noted photographer Jill Krementz.

    Vonnegut once said that of all the ways to die, he'd prefer to go out in an airplane crash on the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. He often joked about the difficulties of old age.

    "When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life; old age is more like a semicolon," Vonnegut told The Associated Press in 2005.

    "My father, like Hemingway, was a gun nut and was very unhappy late in life. But he was proud of not committing suicide. And I'll do the same, so as not to set a bad example for my children."
    Novelist Kurt Vonnegut Dies at Age 84

    A sad day...I'm off to re-read Welcome to the Monkey House.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Elite Member twitchy's Avatar
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    I love Vonnegut's writing and his outspokenness. This is a sad day.

    "The howling backwoods that is IMDB is where film criticism goes to die (and then have its corpse gang-raped, called a racist, and accused of supporting Al-Qaeda)" ----Sean O'Neal, The Onion AV Club

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    Elite Member greysfang's Avatar
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    I loved Vonnegut, the Sirens of Titan is one of my all time favorite books. He had a great, long and productive life, but he will be sorely missed.
    FUCK YOU AND GIVE ME MY GODDAMN VENTI TWO PUMP LIGHT WHIP MOCHA YOU COCKSUCKING WHORE BEFORE I PUNCH YOU IN THE MOUTH. I just get unpleasant in my car. - Deej

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    IF you haven't read the short story 'Welcome to the Monkey House', do so. I just re-read it and still love it to bits. It's my favorite piece of writing from him and that's saying something, considering his towering talents.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Hit By Ban Bus! pacific breeze's Avatar
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    Another great one down for the count. Can't think of anyone with his talent and willingness to stand up for what he believes, even if it costs him lots of almighty dollars.

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    Elite Member twitchy's Avatar
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    All the greats are gone


    PLAYBOY: So, who are the new Kurt Vonneguts or Joe Hellers?
    HELLER: Oh, I don't think there has been anybody after us.
    VONNEGUT: Well, we haven't seen Schwarzkopf's memoirs yet. Laughs
    HELLER: You've got the name wrong. Scheisskopf.

    http://www.vonnegutweb.com/vonnegutia/interviews/int_heller.html

    "The howling backwoods that is IMDB is where film criticism goes to die (and then have its corpse gang-raped, called a racist, and accused of supporting Al-Qaeda)" ----Sean O'Neal, The Onion AV Club

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    Hit By Ban Bus! pacific breeze's Avatar
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    ^^Hilarious, but true. I remember reading Vonnegut's books for the first time and how excited I was. I haven't felt that way about an author for a long, long time.

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    Elite Member greysfang's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buttmunch View Post
    IF you haven't read the short story 'Welcome to the Monkey House', do so. I just re-read it and still love it to bits. It's my favorite piece of writing from him and that's saying something, considering his towering talents.
    Oh yes, excellent story. But Sirens of Titan was the first I read and will always be my favorite. I remember I was 14 or so and was amazed that such sedition could come in book form (yes, i was a very sheltered midwest child).
    FUCK YOU AND GIVE ME MY GODDAMN VENTI TWO PUMP LIGHT WHIP MOCHA YOU COCKSUCKING WHORE BEFORE I PUNCH YOU IN THE MOUTH. I just get unpleasant in my car. - Deej

    http://www.gossiprocks.com/forum/signaturepics/sigpic4098_9.gif Healthy is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

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    Elite Member twitchy's Avatar
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    Husband-to-be and I had a long distance romance and sent books and music as care packages. When he sent me Deadeye Dick, I knew I had a keeper.

    "The howling backwoods that is IMDB is where film criticism goes to die (and then have its corpse gang-raped, called a racist, and accused of supporting Al-Qaeda)" ----Sean O'Neal, The Onion AV Club

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    ^^And you did! What a great guy!

    All the greats are gone
    No way are all the greats gone....they just haven't yet been discovered. I figure that, given the times we live in, all sorts of great artistic sensibilities are out there...we just have to be on the look-out and not quite so cynical and bitter. I think we're in for a great artistic time...it's the only reaction to distressing times.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Hit By Ban Bus! ediebrooks's Avatar
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    I really liked him. I haven't read his books in a long time, but as I recall there was an undercurrent of sadness beneath the humor.

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    Time to dust off those old volumes and re-discover the joys of Mr. Kurt. He is...I guess was...fabulous. I hope I live my life with as much verve as he did...
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    So it goes, Mr. Vonnegut. So it goes.

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    Elite Member moomies's Avatar
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    A Great and very inspiring writer.

    Just a little trivia: He had a MA in anthropology

    If you think it's crazy, you ain't seen a thing. Just wait until we're goin down in flames.

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    what a sad sad day. I was just recently introduced to his work and read a good handfull of his books in a month.
    "Don't think that sticking your boobs out and trying to look fuckable will help. Remember your in a rock and roll band. It's not "Fuck Me", It's "Fuck You!"
    Chrissie Hynde


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