Saturday, April 14, 2007

"And So It Goes"

Photo Credit: Avalon Books
There is not one person of my generation who has graduated from high school in America and hasn't read a book by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. His books, including Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse 5, and Breakfast of Champions, were often recommended, if not required reading, for high school level literature courses. He exposed us to a level of satire and humor that went beyond Mad Magazine or Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, as well as political ideology that we may not have been aware of at the time.
Writing in the genre of Science/Speculative Fiction, his plots, story lines, and dialogue often reflected his personal beliefs in Socialism and Atheism. But, in spite of the fears of censorship advocates and book burners of the time, reading his books did not create a generation of anti-capitalists. Rather, his books opened up a dialogue in our minds where we were invited to defend our beliefs--Vonnegut, through his writing, did not try to force his beliefs upon the reader, he merely presented his ideology for scrutiny. Whether we agreed with his ideology or not, he made us think, and created constructive discourse among ourselves and our fellow students. In his way, he proved that freedom of speech/expression does not cause the End of Civilization As We Know It.
Political and social ideology aside, Vonnegut wrote good books--books that entertained us and made us laugh. He has often been called the Samuel Clemons (Mark Twain) of our time, which is, in our minds, a justifiable comparison. He allowed us to laugh at ourselves, often while identifying with his main characters who were almost always helpless victims of circumstance, with no control over their own lives. As darkly cynical as some of his humor was, a glimmer of hope was always present in his writing.
Kurt Vonnegut passed away Wednesday, April 11, reportedly due to head injuries suffered in a fall. He will always be remembered as an important and influential contributer to modern literature, perhaps the best of our time. "And so it goes..."

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